1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers Receives Vanguard Award!

The surviving 1968 sanitation workers were presented with the NAACP Vanguard Award at the historic Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN… now the site of the National Civil Rights Museum.


sanitation workers


On April 3, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King stood in the pulpit of Mason Temple in Memphis and delivered the “Mountaintop Speech.”  He addressed a sanctuary overflowing with community members and African American sanitation workers whose strike for dignity and respect grew into a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement.  Less than 24 hours later, he was tragically assassinated. April 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of The Mountaintop Speech, Dr. King’s death, and the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike.

“Despite threats to their lives and livelihoods, the sanitation workers made the brave decision to strike, armed with the simple, powerful slogan, ‘I Am a Man’,” said Derrick Johnson, NAACP president and CEO. “They knew the urgency of their demand for dignity and justice, but little did they know how relevant their peaceful protest would remain come 2018. It is now up to us to confront modern-day challenges to civil rights with the same courage and determination. The NAACP is honored to present the Vanguard Award to the surviving sanitation workers for their fight for racial and economic justice. We are inspired by their individual and collective activism.”

The honorees… some still on the job were presented with the prestigious Vanguard Award in conjunction with the 49th NAACP Image Awards which will be broadcast LIVE on TV ONE on Monday, January 15, 2018 at 9pm/8c, the federal holiday honoring the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.   A one-hour pre-show will air live from the red carpet at 8pm/7c.


About NAACP:

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. 



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