Ella Owens tells her daughter, Lynn Reed, about participating in a march during the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike.
Ella Annette Owens
Ella Annette Owens (EAO): We all went downtown to participate in the march. And my mother’s brother owned a printing shop on, at 220 Hernando Street. Clayborn Temple was on the end of that street, and that was where everything began. All the meetings, and all the plans, and they would start from Clayborn Temple and walk down to Beale and on up to Main, to the city hall, that was the plan.
But this particular time, when we started walking down, they, uh, said, “Go back, go back,” because some young men had decided that when they got on Main Street, they were going to start breaking all the glass out of the store window. They told us to go back to the, back to Clayborn Temple. But we went to the shop. Because, you know, it was my uncle’s shop, it was right in between there. Well, when we got in the shop, and people were running down to the temple, the police had started Macing people and beating them with nightsticks. And my mother and my uncle, her brother, walked out on the sidewalk and they were standing there watching. And a policeman was coming down the street, and he told them, “Get inside!” And they didn’t move, they just stood there. And he said it again, “Get inside!” And he raised his nightstick. And I said, “Lord, I’m going to die today, because if he hits either one of them, I’m going out there.” And by that time, they turned very slowly, and with dignity and courage, they just took their time walking into the shop. Letting him know in many ways, body language and many other languages, they did not appreciate what was being done, nor his actions.