Sculpture, text, and landscape come together to form an important new American Civil Rights Memorial. I AM A MAN Plaza, is a large-scale experiential public sculpture commissioned to pay tribute to the members of the pivotal 1968 Sanitation Workers’ Strike and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A focal point of the Civil Rights Movement, the strike brought Dr. King to Memphis, Tennessee where he was assassinated. The strike and its I Am a Man! slogan came to represent the struggle of the working poor and racial inequality in Memphis and beyond.
The landscape sculpture features a centrally located bronze and stainless steel sculpture that brings the iconic slogan I AM A MAN into the present. Garten and his studio led a design team with Memphis-based landscape architect John Jackson of JPA, Inc. for the memorial plaza. As part of Garten’s plan, local spoken word artist Steve Fox held an open dialogue with the greater Memphis community, who through a series of public workshops organized by the UrbanArt Commission, selected pertinent historical text and created an original contemporary text that is etched into the marble gates to the plaza’s entry. The texts combine as a meditation on America’s struggle and progress with racism and class inequity since the sanitation workers and Dr. Martin Luther King took their historic stand in Memphis.