Protestors stand on the Hernando DeSoto Bridge in Memphis, TN in 2016.
MLK50: Justice Through Journalism launched four years ago on April 4, 2017. One year prior, Black Lives Matter supporters shut down the Hernando DeSoto Bridge for several hours in protest of recent police killings of Black people. Photo by Andrea Morales

Four years ago today, MLK50: Justice Through Journalism launched

From our editor

MLK50: Justice Through Journalism editor and publisher Wendi C. Thomas reflects on lessons learned over the last four years and shares her vision for the future of our newsroom.

Months earlier, President Donald Trump commenced a dramatic and traumatic administration. And later that year two Confederate monuments came down in Memphis. 

Our nonprofit newsroom was catalyzed in a roiling local and national debate. And our dedication to covering it from the point-of-view of the marginalized has stayed true as we’ve grown. The following 10 images show key moments from the past four years, for the community and for the people we focused our lens on. 

Historic moments

Photos by MLK50 Visuals Director Andrea Morales unless otherwise noted.

Students from University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis protest next to a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest.
University of Tennessee Health Science Center students stage a walkout in August 2017 to protest the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue located in Health Sciences Park. 

A statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest in Memphis is hoisted into the air by a crane.
Forrest was a Confederate Army General and the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. A nonprofit removed the Forrest statue and another one of Confederate President Jefferson Davis on Dec. 20, 2017.

Economic justice activists clasp hands.
A day prior to the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 2018, a group of economic justice activists clasped hands before planned protests, which ended in nine arrests. 

A crowd of people attend the official 50th anniversary ceremony remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.
Rob Brown (second from left)  and Zyanya Cruz (center), who had been arrested while protesting the previous day, attended the official 50th anniversary ceremony remembering King’s assassination at the Lorraine Motel. 

Carrie Barrett raises her hand in church as she shares that Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare erased her nearly $33,000 debt.
In 2019, MLK50 uncovered that Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare operated a collections agency and took low-income patients and even employees who owed money to court. The reporting led to the health system forgiving $11.9 million in debt. Carrie Barrett, a part-time Kroger employee, rejoices at her church on Sept. 15, 2019, as she shared that Methodist had erased her nearly $33,000 debt.

Portrait of Epiphany Jones in Memphis.
A self-portrait by Epiphany Jones, a restaurant worker who was on indefinite leave in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

Protestor Salamander is arrested by Memphis police during a demonstration outside City Hall in 2020.
Memphis police arrest Salamander, who uses one name, at City Hall on July 1, 2020, during a weeks-long sit-in protesting police brutality. 

Memphis demonstrators stand in the street as they protest the killing of Black people.
Memphis demonstrators on May 27, 2020, protest the killings of Black people including Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. Photo by Brandon Dill

Portrait of Samuel Hardaway on his family's land in the Boxtown neighborhood in Southwest Memphis.
Samuel Hardaway looks out over his family’s land in the Boxtown neighborhood in September 2020. He expressed concerns about the proposed Byhalia Connection Pipeline that would run under Southwest Memphis.

Kizzy Jones (background) stands at a podium during a rally against the Byhalia Connection Pipeline as someone holds a Black Lives Matter flag in the foreground.
Resident Kizzy Jones speaks about her family’s experience in South Memphis during a January rally against the Byhalia Connection Pipeline. Jones is an organizer with Memphis Community Against the Pipeline, a group that opposes the project.

This story is brought to you by MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a nonprofit newsroom focused on poverty, power and policy in Memphis. Support independent journalism by making a tax-deductible donation today. MLK50 is also supported by these generous donors.

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