Terrible Thursday

Dr. King returned on March 28th to lead a march in support of the sanitation workers on Beale Street in downtown Memphis. Minutes after the procession began, violence erupted. Windows were broken and looting started. Dr. King was quickly escorted away while 600 police dispersed the marchers with tear gas and nightsticks. During the course of the day 62 people were injured and 1 was killed. The FBI circulated a memo to newspaper editorial offices across the country citing a breakdown of the non-violence in Memphis and that this was a precursor to the Poor People's Campaign. King and many others believed the march had been undermined and sabotaged.

This was the first time in King's life he was forced to leave a civil rights march. He felt compelled to return to Memphis to organize a truly non-violent march to put doubts about non-violent protests to rest, and to lay the groundwork for a successful mass demonstration in Washington DC with the Poor People's Campaign.

From the I Am A Man Exhibit Symposium

Wayne State University Walter P. Reuther Library

AFSCME leader Bill Lucy discusses the security forces used to monitor marching strikers. He also discusses information that came out after the fact about the FBI's role in provoking violence from strikers. Filmed 10/10/2003. Digitized August 2011. Clip extracted December 2011.

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Striking members of Memphis Local 1733 hold signs whose slogan symbolized the sanitation workers' 1968 campaign. (Creator: Copley, Richard L.; Date: 1968)

Striking members of Memphis Local 1733 hold signs whose slogan symbolized the sanitation workers' campaign in 1968. (Creator: Copley, Richard L.; Date: 1968)

A well armed Memphis City policeman monitors striking sanitation workers during the 1968 AFSCME Local 1733 strike in support of which Martin Luther King, Jr. lost his life. (Date: 1968-03-28)

Bernard Lee escorts Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy to safety after the march erupted in violence. (Creator: Melhorn, Sam; Date: 1968-03-28)

A police officer beats a youth during the violence that erupted during the march. Larry Payne, the 16-year-old in the background, was killed by police later in the day. (Creator: Thornell, Jack; Date: 1968-03-28)

Announcement for the march from the Community on the Move for Equality (COME). (Creator: Community on the Move for Equality; Date: 1968-03)

(Date: 1968-03)