Interview with Ralph Abernathy

I want to go back to march in support of the sanitation strikers in Memphis. You and Dr. King get to Memphis, and I believe you may have been running behind schedule. Start me from that and go into the march, describe your arrival, what you saw, what you felt and what happened.


Yes, I remember so very, very clearly that in the latter days of, ah, March, um, Dr. King and I were campaigning on behalf of the Poor People's Campaign, ah, in the state of New York and New Jersey. And ah, he wanted to stay, ah, up there, because he had some appointments that he wanted to fulfill, and ah, in New Jersey. Ah, and so he turned to me and said, Ralph, ah, I want you to go to Memphis this evening, because all of the national leaders, Roy Wilkins, ah, and ah, the head of the Urban League, ah, and ah, other, other persons had been into Memphis in support of the, ah, ah, the sanitation workers strike. And he was scheduled to be there this, that particular evening. And ah, I, naturally I was enjoying, ah, the reception that we had received in New York and New Jersey. And, ah, I didn't want to go and, ah, he said, Ralph, ah, you have to go, and, because I have to be over in Patterson, New Jersey, and they want me over there. And ah, you go down and speak for me. And so, ah, I agreed. Ah, and ah, flew down to Memphis. And Reverend Solomon Jones met me, ah, and took me into the mass meeting which was held in the Mason Temple, ah, Church. This was the headquarters church for the Church of God in Christ. And ah, it was a full church. And that church hold about, ah, 10 or 12,000 people. And ah, and we just had a great time that evening. And I, I delivered one of more, my most powerful speeches. And ah, and ah, I was taken to the Peabody Hotel, the only hotel that was unionized, ah, in Memphis. And ah, that, ah, I had never stayed in that hotel before, because it was formerly for Whites only. But ah, I went to, ah, I was taken there, and I spent the night there.