Civil Rights Center marks Memphis workers’ strike

Civil Rights Center marks Memphis workers’ strike
February 01
13:30 2018

The International Civil Rights Center & Museum (ICRCM), at 134 South Elm Street in Greensboro, will commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the heroic “I AM A MAN” Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike of 1968 on Sunday, Feb. 4, from 2-4 p.m.

This event will follow the previous evening’s ICRCM Annual Fundraising Gala and will feature William “Bill” Lucy, legendary African-American trade union leader, who participated in the historic 1968 strike.

For several decades, as the secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), he was among the highest ranking and most influential black trade unionists in the USA. Lucy, now retired, was also the founder of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU).

This inspiring program will include current local activists, refreshments, songs of the movement, and ICRCM’s “I AM A MAN” exhibition opening. 

This event will be open to the public and free of charge; however, those desiring to attend should RSVP to

On Jan. 9, the fourteen surviving sanitation workers who participated in the pivotal 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike were honored by the NAACP in Memphis and received the organization’s vaunted Vanguard Award in conjunction with the 49th NAACP Image Awards, in Pasadena, California on Jan.15. 

The NAACP is the first major organization to recognize the workers as part of the “I AM 2018” campaign launched by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Church of God In Christ (COGIC). The campaign is designed to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the strikers, in observance of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King, who was in Memphis to support the workers in April 1968.

According to the NAACP, the Vanguard Award is an “Honor presented in recognition of the groundbreaking work that has increased understanding and awareness of racial and social issues.” Previous honorees include Tyler Perry, Aretha Franklin, Stanley Kramer, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.

Retired AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer William “Bill” Lucy was a leader in organizing the Memphis sanitation workers in 1968. On Jan. 15, he was presented with the prestigious NAACP Chairman’s Award during the Image Awards broadcast.

“We are humbled and honored that the NAACP has chosen to honor the Memphis workers as well as Bill Lucy,” said Lee Saunders, President of AFSCME. “Imagine the courage it took for African-American municipal employees in the Jim Crow South to defy the local power structure and go on strike – not just for a living wage, and not just for decent working conditions. These brave men were striking to demand dignity and respect; to demand racial justice and economic justice.”

The I AM 2018 campaign is a grassroots voter education and mobilization campaign that will train thousands of activists to create change in their communities and carry on the legacy of Dr. King and the sanitation workers. “I AM A MAN” was the slogan that the 1968 striking sanitation workers adopted to bring shine a light on their degrading working conditions and to assert their humanity. The I AM 2018 campaign will continue the unfinished work of confronting prejudice, poverty and advancing the freedom of all working people today.

“As we approach the 50th anniversary of these history-making events, we need to tell the story of Memphis again,” said Saunders. “I AM 2018 is about drawing inspiration from the heroes of Memphis, but it isn’t just a reflection on the past. It’s an urgent call to fight poverty and prejudice, an urgent call to advance the freedom of all working people and to remind America of the inextricable link between racial justice and economic justice.”

AFSCME’s 1.6 million members provide the vital services that make America happen. With members in hundreds of different occupations – from nurses to corrections officers, child care providers to sanitation workers – AFSCME advocates for fairness in the workplace, excellence in public services and prosperity and opportunity for all working families.

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