The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King's Last Campaign

Michael K. Honey

Overview

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.

Michael K. Honey is Professor of African American, Ethnic and Labor Studies, and American History at the University of Washington, Tacoma (UWT).

Comments on the Book by Leading Scholars

"Going Down Jericho Road is a brilliant achievement."

—William S. McFeely, author of Frederick Douglass

"In painting the period's landscape through the case of one local struggle that took on international significance, Honey makes a crucial contribution to our understanding of our past -- and helps us understand the racial and class landscape of America today."

—Rick Ayers, Adjunct Professor at University of San Francisco

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