MLK: Why he was in Memphis

colist at colist at
Sat Jan 20 08:29:16 CST 2007

[ed:  thanks to Peter for encouraging us to reflect on one of the most 
important sources of U.S. community organizing.]

From:  "Peter Dreier" <dreier at>

Friends -
A belated Happy MLK Day.
Most Americans today know that Dr. King  was killed in 1968 in Memphis, 
Tennessee, but fewer know (or remember) why he was there --  to support 
African American garbage workers, who were on strike to protest unsafe 
conditions, abusive white supervisors, and low wages -- and to gain 
recognition for their union. My article in  yesterday's American 
Prospect, "Why He Was in Memphis," recounts King's growing ties with the 
labor movement,  his understanding about the  importance of forging 
close links between the civil rights and labor movements, and his role 
in the Memphis struggle. If he were alive today, he'd surely be on the 
front lines of many labor struggles, the fight for a living wage, 
universal health care, and withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. 

William Jones has a piece on a similar theme in The Nation this week 
Also, new book about the news media's coverage of the civil rights 
movement offers great insights into both the movement and the media. It 
is called The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the 
Awakening of a Nation by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff, and it 
recounts both the strengths and weaknesses of press coverage of the 
freedom struggle.  Here are Eric Alterman's review of the book in The 
Nation  and Jon Wiener's 
review in the Los Angeles Times,0,4339352.htmlstory?coll=cl-bookreview. 

My article last year in Dissent, "Rose Parks: Angry, Not Tired," 
examines some of the myths about the Montgomery bus boycott, when Dr. 
King first came to national prominence, and the lessons of that battle 
for organizing.
Keep your eyes on the prize.
Peter Dreier
Peter Dreier
E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics
Director, Urban & Environmental Policy Program
Occidental College
1600 Campus Road
Los Angeles, CA 90041
Phone: (323) 259-2913
FAX: (323) 259-2734 ; ;

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