Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 (Ages 8+ years)

by Alice Faye Duncan:

This story follows a 9 year old—Lorraine Jackson—whose father was a sanitation worker during the sanitation strike of 1968. When two Black sanitation workers were killed by unsafe equipment and there were no repercussions, sanitation workers went on strike. During the strike, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “On the Mountain Top” sermon the day before he was assassinated. Lorraine addresses how the sanitation strike and the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. affected her family. This story uses poetry, prose and colorful artwork to engage the audience on an important time in history, providing examples of work for positive change such as how Lorraine's family as well as the community banded together to fight (non-violently) for higher pay and safer working conditions.


Using this book as an educational tool:

Try to connect some themes of the book to present-day activism. This could be a great opportunity to talk to you child about other kinds of labor strikes—for example, teachers going on strike for the sake of better pay or education reform. Encourage your child to practice taking the perspective of these workers and their families, asking things like

  • Why do you think the workers were striking?

  • How would you feel if your parents were working in conditions like that?

  • What kinds of people do you think occupied these jobs most often? Why?

This last question is a great way to introduce concepts like discrimination and privilege to your child as well. Low-wage, unsafe work tends to be the most accessible to people of color and other marginalized communities. Teach your children about these patterns, why they exist, and what we can do to work towards change today.