For MLK50: Justice through Journalism, 2019 was a year of spurring change by shedding light, particularly on exploitative medical debt and its effect on the poor.

Investigations by MLK50 and ProPublica effectively interrupted the use of the courts as a collection agency for Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare and Southeastern Emergency Physicians, which contracts with doctors who staff emergency rooms at four Baptist Memorial Hospital facilities. After the stories broke, Methodist and Southeastern ended their aggressive debt collection practices and Methodist erased about $11.9 million in medical debt.

While this revelatory reporting took place, our photographers spent time reflecting on a Memphis landscape in constant flux. We wanted to slow down horse-race coverage of this year’s municipal election, but be present and ready to document when the People’s Convention sought to encourage communities to organize according to their needs and principles.

We aimed to center workers and voters as much as possible because these are the stakeholders who matter most — not the politicians, the corporations nor the institutions.

Below are highlights of our year. Thank you for helping us uplift the people of Memphis.

February 2019 | Aretha Franklin’s childhood home in South Memphis. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50 (Story)
March 2019 | Eula Burks, a custodian at the University of Memphis and one of the workers organizing to raise the minimum wage on campus. Photos by Johnathan Martin for MLK50  (Story)
Methodist University Hospital
June 2019 | United Campus Workers’ annual Juneteenth celebration at LeMoyne-Owen College included a keynote from Jackson, Miss., Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba. Photo by Johnathan Martin for MLK50  (Story)
July 2019 | Journalist Manuel Duran celebrates in Springville, Ala., with his family after being released from ICE detention. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50 (Story)
September 2019 | Early voting block party organized by Memphis for All at the Glenview Community Center. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50
October 2019 | Supporters listen as Tami Sawyer delivers her concession speech on election night. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50 (Story)

This story is brought to you by MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a nonprofit newsroom focused on poverty, power and public policy. Support independent journalism by making a tax-deductible donation today. MLK50 is also supported by the Surdna Foundation, the Southern Documentary Project at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and Community Change. Sign up for our newsletter.


Got a story idea, a tip or feedback? Leave us a voice mail message at 901–602–6868 or send an email to mlk50@mlk50.com.