At the River I Stand reconstructs the two eventful months that transformed a local labor dispute into a national conflagration, and disentangles the complex historical forces that came together with the inevitability of tragedy at the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This 58-minute documentary brings into sharp relief issues that have only become more urgent in the intervening years: the connection between economic and civil rights, the debate over violent vs. nonviolent change, and the demand for full inclusion of African Americans in American life.
In the 1960s, Memphis’ 1,300 sanitation workers formed the lowest caste of a deeply racist society, earning so little they qualified for welfare. In the film, retired workers recall their fear about taking on the entire white power structure when they struck for higher wages and union recognition.
But local civil rights leaders and the Black community soon realized the strike was part of the struggle for economic justice for all African Americans.