While on vacation, I read Hellhound on his Trail. It is a riveting account of the circumstances surrounding the assassination of King and the manhunt for James Earl Ray.
The book details the background of Dr. King’s desire to aid the sanitation workers strike in Memphis.
With the collapse of the cotton market, former sharecroppers moved to Memphis and worked as garbage collectors.
They were the lowest of the lowest in the pecking order,” Fred Davis, a former city council member, told me. “When a kid wanted to put somebody down, they’d refer to their daddy being a sanitation worker.” Workers made about a dollar an hour
The strike began after two men were crushed in a malfunctioning garbage truck. Their death sparked a city-wide movement after years of mistreatment.
“I AM A MAN” was their motto as African-American workers lobbied for humane working conditions, reasonable pay, and worker safety.
Prior to the the strike, Dr. King gave a moving speech:
We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live—a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man
On April 4, 1968, he was killed at the Loraine Motel in Memphis.
If you’d like to know more about the background, read this helpful article: