About

Sanitation Workers 1968

Sanitation workers protest in Memphis during their 1968 strike for better working conditions. Photo © Ernest Withers, all rights reserved. For more information on the life and work of Mr. Withers, click here.

In 1968, Elmore Nickleberry stood among 1,300 other African-American men in Memphis who collectively asserted their right to be treated with dignity.

Mr. Nickleberry hasn’t sat down yet.  Each weeknight, he guides his garbage truck through the streets of downtown Memphis — a living link to a frequently forgotten chapter in American history, and one long eclipsed by the slaying of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Filmed on location in Memphis in late 2008, “I Am a Man: From Memphis, a Lesson in Life” offers a modern-day look at the legacy of Mr. Nickleberry and others like him.  Their inspiring story is tied to character traits and principles just as valuable today as they were more than 40 years ago — a time in Memphis when everyday working men stood together to say: “Enough.”

Elmore Nickleberry 2008

Elmore Nickleberry stood among more than 3,000 striking workers, and remains on the job today. Photo by Robin Tucker.

This site allows you to download or stream  “I Am a Man” for personal viewing.  See the WATCH page for more.

Over roughly 30 minutes, surrounded by the Memphis soul music that helped make the city world famous, “I Am a Man” sets memories filled with love, sorrow — and  sometimes even laughter — against a modern backdrop of Mr. Nickleberry’s present-day route.  Follow him on his first-ever visit to a Memphis middle-school classroom. There, he spontaneously teaches a touching lesson that’s less about history… and more about life.

Elmore Nickleberry and Leon Caldwell of Rhodes College speak to students at the Soulsville Charter School in Memphis during the taping of

Elmore Nickleberry (left) and Rhodes College professor Leon Caldwell speak with Soulsville Charter School students during the taping of “I Am a Man.” Photo by Ronnie Booze.

Since premiering in Memphis in early 2009, “I Am a Man” has played at more than 20 film festivals nationwide, from Maine to Beverly Hills, and received several first-place awards from juries and audiences. The film also received four Emmy Awards from the Mid-South Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for directing, writing, music and overall best historical documentary. Other honors include a Cine Golden Eagle Award, a Telly Award, an audience and special jury award from the Indie Memphis Film Festival and a VOX Award from the Memphis chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

“I Am a Man” is also an official part of the Memphis City Schools history curriculum. The film can be downloaded or streamed, or ordered via DVD on this site. A free study guide is also available. We also encourage teachers, civic and church groups in Memphis — or anywhere in the world — to use the “Meet the Workers” portion of the site to request a personal visit by these courageous men and women who changed the course of history.

The principal cast and crew of “I Am a Man.”  From left, Calvin Taylor, co-executive producer of the project, vice president of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau and executive director of the Memphis Tourism Foundation; ; Jonathan Epstein, Director/Co-Producer; Deanie Parker, co-executive producer; John Hubbell, writer/co-producer; Elmore Nickleberry; Alura Frazier; Willie Caldwell; cinematographer/editor/co-producer Ryan Goble. Photo by Robin Tucker.

The film was produced by the Memphis Tourism Foundation, a branch of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau. Memphis is proud of its history and would like to share it with you. Click on the links in this paragraph to learn more about planning your visit to Memphis.