Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 by Alice Faye Duncan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop tells the story of the sanitation strike that took place in 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee which was sparked by a deadly accident that caused two men to lose their lives while on the job (Echol Cole and Robert Walker). “Several Memphis garbage trucks were old and unsafe. The Trucks were not maintained.” These men deserved better. Wages were unduly low, work conditions were hazardous, and these public servants were consistently treated poorly. Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop highlights the sanitation workers’ labor strike, its impact on the community, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s commitment to the cause, and a united peoples triumph.
Alice Faye Duncan’s research is thorough and her use of both prose and verse combined with R. Gregory Christie’s illustrations brings the narrative to life expertly. It is a book that can be read aloud and displayed in your classroom or library any time of the year and is well suited for the recommended range of 4th through 7th grade. Be sure to check out her website (linked to below in the Shout-Outs) to download the lesson plan.
The back matter of the book includes a timeline of the Memphis sanitation strike and the events as they occurred January 1st through April 16th, 1968. It also has a list of museums to visit, sources referenced (including notes), and an acknowledgment to Dr. Almella Starks-Umoja who’d marched in the strike as a child and shared those memories with Alice Faye Duncan.
Stories are powerful and the thing is, we all have one. I am thankful for those who dig deep and unearth these gems and share them with the world lest we forget. When I was a child, I loathed social studies. All throughout my K-12 education, textbooks, memorizing dates and names, all of it bored me. It wasn’t until my last semester in undergrad at the University At Buffalo that I had a teacher who taught history with a passion and he made the subject so compelling because he was a storyteller. He retold historical events in a way that pulled us right into the center of the action. That’s what a picture book like Alice Faye Duncan’s does. It shares a narrative that transports the reader back to 1968, makes us remember, and then edifies us to march on.
I also read Alice Faye Duncan’s A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks. It was one of my #MustReadin2019 books. You can read my summary and review here.
Alice Faye Duncan | https://alicefayeduncan.com/
R. Gregory Christie | https://gas-art.com/about-r-gregory-christie/
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