Yesterday, April 4, marked the 43rd anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death at the hands of an assassin. He died fighting for the rights of the working class.
On April 3, 1968, King traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, where he delivered his famous “I’ve Been To The Mountaintop” speech, during which he endorsed a “human rights revolution” based around eradicating racism, poverty, and militarism.
King had arrived in Memphis to support a strike by the city’s sanitation workers, who struck to gain collective bargaining rights and better conditions following the deaths of two city workers in an accident. King called upon the city to respect the “dignity of labor,” saying that all workers deserved fair treatment. He also said it was a crime for a rich country like the United States to pay some people starvation wages. Documentary footage from the AFSCME union captured King’s address to the workers:
Dr. King, in Memphis:
You are demanding that this city will respect the dignity of labor. So often we overlook the work and the significance of those who are not in professional jobs, of those who are not in the so-called big jobs. But let me say to you tonight that whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity and it has worth. You are reminding not only Memphis but you are reminding the nation that it is a crime for people who live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages.