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

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

Alice Faye Duncan, illus. by R. Gregory Christie. Calkins Creek, $17.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-62979-718-2

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.)