Many of us are settling back into our weekly routines after the long Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend. On this holiday and others, we get to sit back, sleep in, and enjoy a little extra time at home with our families. It’s easy to forget what exactly it is that we’re commemorating. 

So this episode looks back on two events during the Civil Rights Era, and the courage, sacrifice, and incredible resilience of the people involved.

First, we hear about Vernon Dahmer, a wealthy African-American businessman and farmer in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, whose house was firebombed by the Ku Klux Klan in January 1966, after he publicly offered to pay poll taxes for anyone who couldn’t afford them.

Then we travel to Memphis, Tennessee, and hear about the 1968 sanitation workers’ strike from Elmore Nickleberry and Taylor Rogers, two of the 1,300 men who walked off the job to protest their working conditions and low wages.

This strike brought Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Memphis in a show of support. On April 2, 1968, the night before he was murdered, he gave his final speech at Mason Temple. Taylor Rogers and his wife Bessie remember what it was like to be in the crowd that night.

Episode released January 17, 2017.

Like the music in this episode? Support the artists:
The Blue Dot Sessions — “Filing Away” and “Watermarks”
The SNCC Freedom Singers — “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round”
Mahalia Jackson — “Take My Hand, Precious Lord”
Photo: Striking sanitation workers. Courtesy of Mississippi Valley Collection at the University of Memphis.