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Southern Labor in the News

Remembering the 1978 Sanitation Workers' Strike in Rocky Mount, NC

From July 10 to August 30, 1978, Rocky Mount sanitation workers led a successful strike and boycott of downtown businesses to protest racial injustice. The strike was sparked by the suspension of sanitation worker Alexander “Preacher” Evans after he was accused and convicted of theft. Sanitation workers and members of Rocky Mount’s African American community rallied to his defense during the almost 2-month long struggle. On September 25, 1978, a jury found Evans not guilty and he returned to work, thus ending what is now considered a major civil rights and labor struggle in Rocky Mount.

On Saturday, September 7, 2019, roughly 200 people gathered to celebrate the unveiling of a N.C. Highway Historical Marker commemorating the 1978 Sanitation Workers’ Strike. The following links are to Rocky Mount Telegram articles about the dedication and a documentary on YouTube about the strike.

"Historical Society to Mark 40th Anniversary of Sanitation Strike," Rocky Mount Telegram, September 1, 2018

"Historical Marker Honors Sanitation Strike" by Amelia Harper, Rocky Mount Telegram, September 8, 2019

YouTube Documentary about Sanitation Strike

CONTACT Southern Labor Studies Association 

c/o Erik Gellman, SLSA/UNC Liaison

Department of History

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

102 Emerson Drive, CB #3195

Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3195

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