Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King's Last Campaign

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Overview

The definitive history of the epic struggle for economic justice that became Martin Luther King Jr.'s last crusade.
Memphis in 1968 was ruled by a paternalistic "plantation mentality" embodied in its good-old-boy mayor, Henry Loeb. Wretched conditions, abusive white supervisors, poor education, and low wages locked most black workers into poverty. Then two sanitation workers were chewed up like garbage in the back of a faulty truck, igniting a ...

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Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King's Last Campaign

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Overview

The definitive history of the epic struggle for economic justice that became Martin Luther King Jr.'s last crusade.
Memphis in 1968 was ruled by a paternalistic "plantation mentality" embodied in its good-old-boy mayor, Henry Loeb. Wretched conditions, abusive white supervisors, poor education, and low wages locked most black workers into poverty. Then two sanitation workers were chewed up like garbage in the back of a faulty truck, igniting a public employee strike that brought to a boil long-simmering issues of racial injustice.
With novelistic drama and rich scholarly detail, Michael Honey brings to life the magnetic characters who clashed on the Memphis battlefield: stalwart black workers; fiery black ministers; volatile, young, black-power advocates; idealistic organizers and tough-talking unionists; the first black members of the Memphis city council; the white upper crust who sought to prevent change or conflagration; and, finally, the magisterial Martin Luther King Jr., undertaking a Poor People's Campaign at the crossroads of his life, vilified as a subversive, hounded by the FBI, and seeing in the working poor of Memphis his hopes for a better America.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Although many people know Martin Luther King Jr. died in Memphis, few know what he was doing there, observes labor historian Honey in this moving and meticulous account of the sanitation workers' strike in Memphis between January and April 1968. Marrying labor history to civil rights history, the University of Washington professor fluently recounts the negotiations that ensued after black sanitation workers revolted over being sent home without pay on rainy days, although white workers were paid. While showing how their work stoppage became a strike, then a local movement, before coalescing in the Poor People's Campaign, Honey also reveals King's shift in emphasis "from desegregation and voting rights to the war and the plight of the working class." He also vividly captures many dramatic moments, including marches and sermons as well as King's assassination and its violent aftermath. While familiar villains, famous civil rights activists and King himself often take center stage, the rank-and file workers, whose lives are revealed here, remain the story's heroes and martyrs. Honey's passionate commitment to labor is undisguised, making this effort a worthy and original contribution to the literature. (Jan.)

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In 1968, Memphis sanitation workers went on strike for 68 days against the plantation-like city government run by reactionary mayor Henry Loeb. Martin Luther King, exhausted and demoralized by challenges to his authority by a growing militant black faction and by the FBI's attempts to destroy his credibility, still inspired the workers who ultimately won a contract that made them the highest-paid sanitation workers in the South. Honey (ethnic, gender & labor studies; history, Univ. of Washington, Tacoma; Black Workers Remember: An Oral History of Segregation) presents a dramatic narrative of the strike that led to the spread of unions throughout America, a triumph that King did not live to see. Honey excels at describing the sanitation workers' plight, portraying the strike's leaders (notably black union head T.O. Jones and white American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees officials Jerry Wurf and P.J. Ciampi), and recounting how the strikers, with the support of students and black women, fought to escape the hell of poverty and racism. This stunning combination of impeccable scholarship, enhanced by fascinating oral histories and a page-turning style, results in an important contribution to labor history and to the literature of Martin Luther King. Highly recommended for most public and all academic libraries.-Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393043396
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/15/2007
  • Pages: 640
  • Sales rank: 829,104
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 1.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael K. Honey is a professor of African American and labor studies and American history at the University of Washington, Tacoma, and the author of two prize-winning books on labor and civil rights history. He lives in Tacoma.

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Table of Contents


A Personal Preface     xiii
Introduction: Two Lives Lost     1
Labor and Civil Rights
A Plantation in the City     7
Dr. King, labor, and the Civil Rights Movement     23
Struggles of the Working Poor     50
Standing at the Crossroads     76
On Strike for Respect     98
Hambone's Meditations: The Failure of Community     128
Testing the Social Gospel     151
Fighting for the Working Poor
Minister to the Valley: The Poor People's Campaign     173
Baptism by Fire     191
Ministers and Manhood     211
Convergence     240
Escalation: The Youth Movement     260
"All Labor has Dignity"     287
"Something Dreadful"     309
Jericho Road is a Dangerous Road
Chaos in the Bluff City     335
"The Movement Lives or Dies in Memphis"     362
State of Siege     382
Shattered Dreams and Promised Lands     400
"A Crucifixion Event"     427
Reckonings     451
"We Have Got the Victory"     483
Epilogue: How We Remember King     497
Acknowledgments     507
A Note on Sources     511
Notes     514
Bibliography     571
Index     587
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2008

    A reviewer

    I really liked this book. The writing is clear. The narrative really tells a compelling story. Some of these stories are very raw. The book really does take the reader back to 1968. I think anyone would enjoy this. Professor Honey does a good job of story telling.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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