MLK Commemoration Honors Memphis Sanitation Striker

Jan 10, 2018

Credit Sara Hetherington / WFSU - Florida Public Radio

Leon County officials and the MLK Foundation of Florida held a commemoration Wednesday marking 50 years since the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.

Wednesday’s event, held at Bethel AME Church, featured leaders such as Florida A&M University President Larry Robinson. He talked about growing up in Memphis, Tennessee, where Dr. King was assassinated.

“I remember being inspired by Dr. King and the sanitation workers who put themselves on the frontline to confront the injustices of the day," Robinson said. "Who would’ve imagined that 50 years later I would be standing here as the president of Florida A&M University introducing one of those sanitation workers to you as our keynote speaker.”

That keynote speaker was Mr. Baxter Leach, one of 13 surviving members of the strike. Mr. Leach was featured in the Emmy Award Winning Documentary I Am a Man. He spoke at the event about his experiences during the strike, which successfully increased workers’ wages and compelled Memphis to recognize their trade union. 

The event also honored public service workers in Leon County. Leon County Administrator Vincent Long welcomed the attendees at Bethel AME Church. I swell a little more with pride today as a public servant, as we honor public workers who are here today... whose commitment and hard work I’m lucky enough to know firsthand," he said. Workers from the Leon County Public Works Department and the City of Tallahassee’s Beautification Department were among those honored at the event.