10:00 p.m.

Rebellion was in the air at the National Civil Rights Museum’s capstone MLK50 event at Crosstown Concourse tonight.

Seats for sponsors fill the ground floor of the National Civil Rights Museum’s “Evening of Storytelling” at Crosstown Concourse. Photo by Deborah Douglas.

Diane Nash, a student at Fisk University when she led a sit-in movement, was prepared to do what she had to do, even if she got beat up, locked up or killed.

Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, was a rebel at age 4, drinking from the water fountain labeled for whites only, switching the signs for blacks and white deliberately when she learned what that meant.

When activist and social justice advocate Tami Sawyer moved back to Memphis, she saw how traditional Southern politesse still swept the reality of poverty under the rug.

Questioned by Michael Eric Dyson and Tamron Hall, a marquee menu of civil rights icons from yesterday and today shared insights on how they got the courage to resist.

“We knew that Jim Crow was tough,” said Nash, a lead civil rights movement strategist and leader of the Nashville sit-ins of 1960. “We were going to do whatever was necessary.”

Rev. James Lawson, one of the movement’s tacticians, was fired up, telling the audience the U.S. economy is rotten from top to bottom, citing food, medical and housing insecurity.

“Our present economic system is a plantation capitalist system … aimed at the gathering of wealth by the plantations,” said Lawson. The American economy treats workers like “slaves who don’t need living wages.”

— Deborah Douglas

6:25 p.m.

Soul singer Al Green closes out the National Civil Rights Museum’s MLK50 ceremony with the familiar tunes “Love and Happiness” and “Let’s Stay Together.”

The museum’s evening of storytelling is up next at Crosstown, with civil rights legends Marian Wright Edelman, Bernard Lafayette, Mike Cody, Bill Lucy, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, Diane Nash, and Rev. Jesse Jackson. They will be joined by a new generation of leaders, including Alicia Garza, Tami Sawyer and Bree Newsome.

Photo by Leanne Kleinmann

— Wendi C. Thomas

5:40 p.m.

Feeling restless after the arrests of eight protesters Tuesday outside the Shelby County jail, more than 30 activists met at W. C. Handy Park Wednesday afternoon and then walked to the National Civil Rights Museum, where the #MLK50NCRM April 4 commemoration was underway.

Their plan: To heckle Memphis Mayor Bill Strickland, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. Below, Zyanya Cruz, who was one of the people arrested in Tuesday’s protest, shouts “No change!” as Haslam speaks.

Photo by Andrea Morales.

— Micaela Watts

4:40 p.m.

The Rev. Dorothy Sanders Wells was a 19-year-old student at Rhodes College when she first wandered in to Calvary Episcopal Church. Through the years, Wells, who graduated from Rhodes in 1982 and is now Rector of St. George’s Episcopal Church in Germantown, was fed, both literally and spiritually, by the people and ministry at Calvary. “This place is home,” she said from the pulpit Wednesday.

Photo by Natalie Eddings

That’s why she called the day she found out about the location of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s slave market — less than 100 yards from the altar at Calvary — “the most difficult day of my life.”

“I understood that slave hands had helped build this place,” she said, her voice breaking. “But it was different when I knew that, week after week, people worshipped here and then went out to purchase children of God who looked like me.”

Wells’s testimony was part of a “Service of Remembrance and Reconciliation,” a collaboration between Calvary, Rhodes College and the National Park Service that culminated with the unveiling of a new historical marker titled “Forrest and the Memphis Slave Trade” at what was then 87 Adams, near B.B. King Boulevard. It is a companion to an existing marker around the corner on that says Forrest’s “business enterprises made him wealthy.” Those enterprises, not mentioned on the 1955 marker, included slave trading.

— Leanne Kleinmann

4 p.m.

Warehouse workers with XPO Logistics, a Memphis distribution company that is one of the city’s 25 largest employers, announced today that they have filed sexual harassment complaints against the company with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

XPO has about 350 employees and 550 temporary workers in Memphis.

XPO did not respond to multiple requests by MLK50 to fill out our Living Wage Survey. In 2014, XPO acquired New Breed Logistics. New Breed lost a $1.5 million dollar lawsuit after a Memphis warehouse manager was accused of harassing three temporary female employees, and terminated their employment after they refused his advances.

— Micaela Watts

2:30 p.m.

Immigrant rights groups are asking other organizations to sign a letter by 5 p.m. Wednesday to help keep Latino journalist Manuel Duran from ending up in the custody of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 
 Duran, who writes for the Spanish-language website Memphis Noticias, was detained Tuesday afternoon while covering a protest outside the Shelby County Jail at 201 Poplar.

Police snap handcuffs on Latino journalist Manuel Duran, who is partially visible behind the woman with “Verizon” on the back of her shirt. Duran and seven others were arrested for disorderly conduct and obstructing a highway or passageway. Photo by Andrea Morales

“Manuel Duran was wearing his press credentials when it happened. When they (the police) were saying, ‘Get out of the street,’ he was moving toward the sidewalk like everyone else was,” said Paul Garner, organizing director of the Mid-South Peace & Justice Center, who watched a live stream video of the event. Garner’s organization is also signing on the letter. 
 “He got caught up in the chaos, when the police got all handcuff happy.”

Communidades Unidas Una Voz and Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition drafted the letter. Sign the letter here.

— Wendi C. Thomas

2:25 p.m.

Under sunny skies with a cool breeze, Martin Luther King III, Rev. Al Sharpton and musician Sheila E led short speeches, with AFSME supporters looking on outside Mason Temple.

Recalling the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., they called for renewed, diverse efforts — particularly voting — to address poverty, gun violence and police shootings.

Martin Luther King Jr. added that “we’ve got to find a way to work on the president’s heart,” as a generation before had worked on former Alabama Gov. George Wallace’s heart and changed him. Van Jones, a CNN commentator, is introducing speakers.

1 p.m.

After a final cheer of “Let us march!” from AFSCME president Lee Saunders, marchers over-filling the intersection at Danny Thomas and Beale began their march to Mason Temple to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., shortly before 12:30 p.m.

Photos by Kevin McKenzie

Those leading sang “Ain’t Going to Let Nobody Turn Me Around” and “We Shall Overcome.” Further back, chants of ‘We are the union’ and “we got the power” filled the air.

— Kevin McKenzie

12 p.m.

Local activists Tami Sawyer and Keedran Franklin, who was arrested Tuesday and released early Wednesday, at a protest at the Shelby County Jail and released hours later, will read the names of enslaved people sold at a slave trading site near Calvary Episcopal Church in Downtown Memphis.

They are part of a ceremony to dedicate a new historical marker, sponsored by the church, Rhodes College and the National Park Service. The marker will be unveiled at an afternoon reconciliation at Calvary, which owns the property. Rhodes students will read a list of the names of enslaved people sold from the site.

The existing marker at “Forrest’s Early Home,” refers to the former Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, founder of the Ku Klux Klan, as having come back to Memphis, where “his business enterprises made him wealthy.” What the old marker doesn’t mention is that the enterprises involved selling slaves at the site, at 87 Adams.

— Wendi C. Thomas

11:30 a.m.

As a crowd prepared to march from AFSCME headquarters to Mason Temple to honor King, actor and artist Common performed “Glory” from the movie Selma. Democratic U.S. Representatives Bobby Rush of Illinois, Barbara Lee of California and Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas were followed by Rev. William Barber, co-leader of a renewed Poor People’s Campaign, on the AFSCME stage. Tom Peres, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Memphis Rep. Steve Cohen also spoke.

Photo by Kevin McKenzie

“Dr. King was many, many things, but what he was mostly about was understanding that we are all of a common humanity,” Sanders said.

“Black and White and Latino and Asian American and Native Americans, we have common dreams.

“And today we tell the president of the United States and anybody else: You are not going to divide us up.”

— Kevin McKenzie

11:15 a.m

CNN commentator Angela Rye, who joined protestors outside of the jail at 201 Poplar yesterday, and radio host Charlemagne Tha God sponsored and served breakfast to students at Oakhaven Middle School.

By her side were on the serving line with local activists from organizations including Black Lives Matter Memphis, The Coalition of Concerned Citizens, and Hands Up Memphis. One of the activists in attendance was activist Tami Sawyer.

Ninety-five percent of students at Oakhaven are on free or reduced lunch, according to principal Nigel Stevenson. At the event, Hope Credit Union and the black-owned Tri-State Bank announced they will open free accounts for Oakhaven students and their parents.

In February, Rye drew the ire of Mayor Jim Strickland when she delivered a withering rebuke of the city and some of its policies at the city’s #IAmMemphis event.

— J. Dylan Sandifer

10 a.m.

A sea of union members and supporters are gathering outside the AFSCME Local 1733 for a march commemorating the slaying of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 50 years ago today, and singer and percussionist Sheila E. was on stage.

The march, now expected to begin about noon, will stream from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees local’s headquarters at Beale Street and Danny Thomas Boulevard to Mason Temple, where King gave his final speech.

Photo by Kevin McKenzie

With the 1968 strike, sanitation workers won representation by the AFSCME union.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is slated to be among officials representing many of the nation’s largest unions, civil rights leaders and participants in the 1968 strike.

Speeches and entertainment are booking from a large stage erected on Danny Thomas. Food trucks are attracting customers.

AFSCME and the Church of God in Christ are sponsoring the I Am 2018 rally and a conference earlier this week. COGIC is based in Memphis with Mason Temple as it’s headquarters.

— Kevin McKenzie

10 a.m.

In partnership with Black Lives Matter Memphis, C3 Land Cooperative and activist Tami Sawyer, Angela Rye served 350 students breakfast at Oakhaven Middle School in honor of MLK50.

Rye, who was the keynote speaker in Memphis Feb. 24 for the #IAmMemphis commemoration, served an array of eggs, grits, biscuits, fruit, and pastries prepared by a local black female chef, Rasheedah Jones, owner of Quesadilla Lady Catering.

— Kirstin Cheers

Capitalizing on the civil rights movement

Last week he was at the March for Our Lives in Washington and next week, he’ll be at a gay pride parade in Miami, Florida.

But on Wednesday, the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, 57-year-old Phillip Heck of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was hawking Black Lives Matter T-shirts and Impeach Trump bumper stickers. Business was slow a block away from the National Civil Rights Museum, where in several hours hundreds, if not thousands, were expected to gather to commemorate the anniversary.

Don’t make any assumptions about Heck’s politics based on his wares. He’s a businessman, a capitalist and he goes where the likely customers are. When the occasion calls for it, Heck, who Wednesday wore a black “Black Lives Matter” baseball hat, sells “Make America Great” hats.

Photo by Wendi C. Thomas

“I think all lives matter,” he said. “Martin Luther King Jr. was a great man, until Farrakhan brought Black Panthers in the whole situation,” Heck said.

His understanding of civil rights history seemed hazy and when asked why King was in Memphis, Heck said, “I can’t really answer that.”

A passerby wearing a WREG-TV badge overheard the question and filled Heck in. “He came to support the sanitation workers strike,” the WREG employee told the T-shirt vendor.

“I’m 57 years old, and I didn’t know that,” Heck said.

– Wendi C. Thomas

6 a.m.

There’s already a historical marker about Nathan Bedford Forrest near the corner of Adams and B.B. King Boulevard. It was placed in 1955 and is titled “Forrest’s Early Home.”

It refers to the former Confederate general and founder of the Ku Klux Klan as having come back to Memphis, where “his business enterprises made him wealthy.” What the old marker doesn’t mention is that the enterprises involved selling slaves at the site, at 87 Adams.

Timothy Huebner, a Rhodes College history professor, and his students researched original sources for the details of Forrest’s slave market, and developed a new marker, which will be titled, “Forrest and the Memphis Slave Trade.”

The new marker, sponsored by Calvary Episcopal Church, Rhodes College and the National Park Service, will be unveiled at noon on April 4 during a “Service of Remembrance and Reconciliation” at Calvary, which owns the property. Rhodes students will read a list of the names of enslaved people sold from the site.

“Fifty years ago, Dr. King came to Memphis to show solidarity with the city’s striking sanitation workers, who held signs that simply said, ‘I Am a Man,’” said Huebner. “By remembering the names of the enslaved and respecting the dignity of their lives, we will attempt to follow King’s example of lifting up the forgotten.”

Leanne Kleinmann

This story is brought to you by MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a nonprofit reporting project on economic justice in Memphis. Support independent journalism by making a tax-deductible donation today. MLK50 is also supported by the Center for Community Change and the Surdna Foundation.