Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968
Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968

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Annotation: This historical fiction picture book presents the story of nine-year-old Lorraine Jackson, who in 1968 witnessed the Memphis sanitation strike--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s final stand for justice before his assassination.
Genre: Economics
Catalog Number: #171020
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Boyds Mills Press
Copyright Date: 2018
Edition Date: c2018
Illustrator: Christie, R. Gregory,
Pages: 40
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 1-629-79718-9 Perma-Bound: 0-7804-3129-4
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-629-79718-2 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-3129-4
Dewey: 331.892
LCCN: 2017949844
Dimensions: 28 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
Horn Book
The 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike is not often covered in picture books, despite its being Dr. King's final march before his assassination. In a poignant mix of poetry and prose, fictional child Lorraine Jackson shares her family's story of resistance as she helped her sanitation-worker father fight for fair wages and safer working conditions. Christie's rich gouache paintings illustrate the honest portrayal of an intense historical moment. Timeline. Bib.
Publishers Weekly
Duncan relays the story of the 1968 Memphis sanitation strike, which was triggered after two black sanitation workers died when their poorly maintained truck malfunctioned. After the incident, Mayor Henry Loeb refused to meet the demands of the newly formed sanitation workers- union for better pay, treatment, and safety standards, and 1,300 men walked off the job. Duncan writes in fervent free verse from the perspective of Lorraine Jackson, a fictional girl whose father joins the strike and who is loosely based on Almella Starks-Umoja, a teacher who marched in strike protests with her parents as a child. Lorraine-s narrative is passionate and personal: -My daddy... marched for better pay. He marched for decent treatment. My daddy marched for me.- As violence erupts, and Martin Luther King Jr. arrives to deliver his -I-ve Been to the Mountaintop- speech the day before his assassination, the emotional tenor of Lorraine-s story builds, cresting with the strike-s settlement: -So much was won. So much was lost. Freedom is never free.- Christie-s vivid, emotive gouache paintings feature a montage of powerful panoramas and portraits, including those of the protesters, King, and Lorraine-s family. Ages 9-12. (Aug.)

School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 25 Duncan tells the story of the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. through the voice of Lorraine Jackson, an invented character who looks back on her childhood as the nine-year-old daughter of a sanitation worker. The book opens with a poem, beginning simply, "I remember Memphis," and continues mostly in prose, with several pages of poetry in different formats interspersed. The haiku "Omen" is striking amid the longer pages: "Yellow Daffodils. Sixteen inches under snow. King canceled his march." The language throughout is powerful. Christie's Acryla gouache paintings are breathtaking, from the wide white brush strokes in the snowy background of the aforementioned haiku, to the impeccable rendering of Coretta Scott King marching in a widow's veil four days after her husband's assassination. Lorraine is depicted earnestly with braids in bows, and bobby socks. Warm yellows and oranges and cool blues alternate as backgrounds to most full-bleed pages. The text is fully researched, with cited sources, and draws many details from interviews with a Memphis teacher who experienced this moment in history as a child. VERDICT A superbly written and illustrated work. A first purchase for public and school libraries. Clara Hendricks, Cambridge Public Library, MA
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
Fifty years on, readers reminisce with a young black girl who recalls how black sanitation workers launched a movement for equal rights and safer working conditions and stayed committed to justice amid tragic loss. Basing her story on the true accounts of Dr. Almella Starks-Umoja, Duncan creates 9-year-old Lorraine Jackson to tell the full story of the Memphis sanitation strike of 1968. The story begins not with the entrance of Martin Luther King, who would arrive in March, but in January, when the tragic deaths of two black garbagemen due to old, malfunctioning equipment added to calls for change. The author's choice to not focus on the singular efforts of King but on the dedicated efforts of community signals a deeply important lesson for young readers. Strong historical details back up the organizing feat: "In the morning and afternoon, for sixty-five days, sanitation workers marched fourteen blocks through the streets of downtown Memphis." The narrative is set in vignettes that jump between verse and prose, set against Christie's bold paintings. Lorraine learns that "Dreamers never quit" after reminiscing on what would be Dr. King's final lecture, delivered on April 3. The struggle doesn't end with King's death but continues with the spotlight cast by Coretta Scott King on the sanitation workers' demands. "Freedom is never free," Lorraine notes before closing with the thought that it remains our mission to "Climb up the MOUNTAINTOP!"Encapsulates the bravery, intrigue, and compassion that defined a generation, presenting a history that everyone should know: required and inspired. (Picture book. 9-12)
Bibliography Index/Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Word Count: 3,060
Reading Level: 4.9
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.9 / points: 0.5 / quiz: 197315 / grade: Middle Grades
Lexile: 800L
Guided Reading Level: W
Fountas & Pinnell: W

A 2019 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book * A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year * A Booklist Editors' Choice * A Kirkus Reviews Best Children's Book * Booklist Top 10 Diverse Books for Middle Grade or Older Readers * A Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books

"(A) history that everyone should know: required and inspired." - Kirkus Reviews, starred review

This historical fiction picture book presents the story of nine-year-old Lorraine Jackson, who in 1968 witnessed the Memphis sanitation strike--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s final stand for justice before his assassination--when her father, a sanitation worker, participated in the protest.


In February 1968, two African American sanitation workers were killed by unsafe equipment in Memphis, Tennessee. Outraged at the city's refusal to recognize a labor union that would fight for higher pay and safer working conditions, sanitation workers went on strike. The strike lasted two months, during which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was called to help with the protests. While his presence was greatly inspiring to the community, this unfortunately would be his last stand for justice. He was assassinated in his Memphis hotel the day after delivering his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" sermon in Mason Temple Church. Inspired by the memories of a teacher who participated in the strike as a child, author Alice Faye Duncan reveals the story of the Memphis sanitation strike from the perspective of a young girl with a riveting combination of poetry and prose.


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