2005/04/04

Thirty-seven years ago

Nineteen sixty-eight

January
January 5 - Alexander Dubček elected as leader of the Czechoslovakian Communist Party - the "Prague Spring" begins in Czechoslovakia
January 15 - An earthquake in Sicily - 231 dead, 262 injured
January 21 - US B-52 bomber crashes in Greenland and in the process discharges four nuclear bombs
January 23 - North Korea seizes the USS Pueblo, claiming the ship violated its territorial waters while spying.
January 25 - The Israeli Submarine Dakar sinks in the Mediterranean Sea - 69 dead
January 27 - French submarine sinks in the Mediterranean with 52 men
January 30 - Vietnam War: The Tet Offensive begin when Viet Cong forces launch series of a surprise attacks in South Vietnam.
January 31 - Viet Cong attack the United States embassy in Saigon
January 31 - Nauru's president Hammer DeRoburt declares independence from Australia

February
February 1 - Vietnam War: A Viet Cong officer is executed by Nguyen Ngoc Loan a South Vietnamese National Police Chief. The execution was videotaped and photographed and helped sway public opinion against the war.
February 8 - Boeing 747 in its maiden flight
February 8 - American civil rights movement: A civil rights protest staged at a white-only bowling alley in Orangeburg, South Carolina is broken-up by highway patrolmen leading to the deaths of three college students
February 11 - Israeli-Jordan border clashes.
February 11 - Madison Square Garden III closes, Madison Square Garden IV opens in New York.
February 13 - Civil rights disturbances at the University of Wisconsin and University of North Carolina
February 16 - In Haleyville, Alabama the first 9-1-1 emergency telephone system goes into service
February 18 - British Standard Time introduced
February 24 - Vietnam War: The Tet Offensive is halted - South Vietnam recaptures Hué

March
March 7 - Vietnam War: The First Battle of Saigon begins.
March 12 - Mauritius achieves independence from British Rule
March 15 - George Brown, British Minister of Foreign affairs, resigns
March 16 - Vietnam War: My Lai massacre American troops kills scores of women and children
March 17 - A demonstration in London's Grosvenor Square against US involvement in the Vietnam War leads to violence - 91 police injured, 200 demonstrators arrested
March 18 - Gold standard: The U.S. Congress repeals the requirement for a gold reserve to back US currency
March 27 - Russian space pioneer Yuri Gagarin killed in a crash during a training flight.
March 31 - American President Lyndon Johnson announces he will not seek re-election.

April
April - Carl Brashear, the first African American United States Navy diver, becomes the first amputee certified to make diving missions, after a long battle which started with the accident which amputated his leg in 1966.
April 2 - Bombs placed by Andreas Baader and Gudrun Ensslin explode at midnight in two department stores in Frankfurt-am-Main - 3 dead. Culprits are later arrested and sentenced for arson
April 3 - Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his "mountaintop" speech
April 4 - Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated by James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee.*

April, 1968. Thirty-seven years ago this month. I was a freshman at Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis). In my second semester. I wasn't as committed to my studies as I should have been. I mean, there was a war on and I should have been doing my damndest to "keep out of the draft", or, rather the lottery as it was called. Needless to say, my grades were less than stellar.

The country was preoccupied with Veitnam, and rightly so. Memphis also had the local sanitation workers strike. Sanitation workers and other public employees had been on strike since February. There had always been differences between how black workers and white workers were treated, but the fuse was when two black sanitations workers were crushed in the hopper of a garbage truck while sheltering from the rain. White sanitations workers had been allowed to wait out the storm in the office.

Demands, boycott, demonstrations, arrests --- strike. Then scabs. Talks breakdown. Arrests. Neither side budges.

National NAACP leader Roy Wilkins comes to Memphis. SCLC Leader Ralph David Abernathy comes to Memphis. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is invited to Memphis.

More talks. Boycott continues. More demonstrations. Sixteen year old Larry Payne is fatally shot. Many arrests. Martial law is declared. Seven P.M. curfew imposed. Four thousand Tennessee National Guardmen arrive to enforce the curfew and keep the peace.

Ever been in a city where martial law has been imposed? Consider the sight of military vehicles patrolling familiar streets and National Guardmen on street corners with fully loaded weapons. Not a pretty picture. Eerily disturbing; frightening. But this stage of the"occupation" only lasted through April second.

Then on April fourth, the assassination. Federal troops arrive. Martial law is reestablished. The Memphis occupation, Part II; more armed troops and military vehicles on the streets.

In the assassination's aftermath, an agreement is reached between the sanitation workers and the City of Memphis. The strike ends April sixteenth.

Not a proud period in Memphis history or a pretty one. It should be remembered.

*For the rest of 1968 click on Wikipedia.
For a related article click on Remembering a hero.
For a timetable of the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Worker's Strike Chronology click on Memphis: We Remember.

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