MXO ‘The Arts Unplugged’: ‘I AM A MAN’ Plaza Honors 1968 Sanitation Workers In Memphis Tennessee!

By Kathrina Tiangco

Posted July 10th 2018



The city of Memphis has the ‘I Am A Man Plaza’ next to Clayborn Temple, a place that was a rallying point for the historic 1968 Memphis sanitation strike.

Coincidentally, it is the same plaza that now features a giant sculpture of the “I Am A Man” slogan which became famous after the 1968 strike.

The wall has the names of 1,300 strikers and other incredible artworks. “The plaza is a space for everyone to reflect on the cost of justice,” said Cliff Garten, a White California-based designer.

Several black-owned firms were also involved in the project, among them architect John Jackson of Memphis and Allworld Project Management.

Garten added that space would teach, make people feel and reflect on those historical events.
“‘I AM A MAN’ plaza was made for you and belongs to Memphis,” Garten said. “But it also belongs to America.”

City Chief Operations Officer Doug McGowen moderated the ceremony to unveil the plaza and it was also an opportunity to celebrate deceased philanthropist Abe Plough, who gave money to end the sanitation strike and who founded the Plough Foundation which helped fund the cost of the plaza.

“As we move forward, this space will become a place for Memphians to reflect,” Memphis Mayor, Strickland said.

Inside the dedicatory wall of the 1300 strikers are the dates and descriptions of significant events that led up to the 1968 strike and took place during it.

Doug McGowen, the city’s chief operating officer, said space would “surely be iconic for our city and the world.”

“People will come from across the country to hear the story of what happened here,” he said.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said the site would serve as a permanent place to “reflect on Memphians who, quite literally changed the world.”

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