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Anecdotes from the aftermath of King's death

Shortly after King was killed, a group of white and black Memphis residents, many of them journalists, came together because they thought local news coverage of the sanitation strike had been biased. They believed the coverage was so poor it might have actually worsened the stand-off between the Memphis city government and the striking workers. The group decided to make its own analysis of the news reporting and the events leading up to King's death. The members named themselves the "Memphis Search for Meaning Committee."

The committee started out gathering every article published about the strike since it had begun on February 12, 1968. Over the next year, the committee amassed recordings of radio and television coverage, oral history interviews and photographs. Membership in the committee grew to 80 people. They worked in a loosely-organized way to gather as much information they could find on the sanitation workers' strike, the death of King, and events that followed.

Along the way committee members collected anecdotes: rumors they heard from people as they picked their kids up from school; "sick jokes" they overheard or saw scrawled on a bathroom wall; exchanges they had with friends, neighbors or strangers that often revealed the depth of racism in Memphis.

All told, the committee collected 347 anecdotes. Each was typed onto an index card and stored in a file. A few of the anecdotes are now missing from the archive, but the rest are shared here. They present a raw picture of the racial climate in Memphis in the months following King's death.


Back to Front in the Fight for Freedom.