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Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King's Last Campaign Hardcover – January 15, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (January 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393043398
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393043396
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,169,065 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Labor scholar Honey examines the intersection between issues of race and economics in the U.S. in the 1960s from the perspective of the Memphis garbage workers' strike, Martin Luther King Jr.'s last campaign. In rich detail, Honey lays out the background for the strike: the appalling working conditions and feudalistic "plantation mentality" of the white business and government sector, led by racist mayor Henry Loeb. Honey also profiles the garbage workers of Memphis, everyday men who toiled for little money, mostly former rural workers come to the city to earn more money. He details the complexities behind local politics and economics, the forced alliances between civil rights movement and local groups, the tensions between the two political parties as the issue of civil rights shifted loyalties, and the power of local white citizens' groups. Honey explores King's expansive view of how racism was woven into the economic fabric of the nation and his frustration at the difficulty of devising strategies that would lead to economic justice as well as civil rights. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Michael K. Honey, a former Southern civil rights and civil liberties organizer, is professor of labor ethnic and gender studies and American history, and the Haley Professor of Humanities, at the University of Washington-Tacoma. The author of three books on labor and civil rights history, including Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King's Last Campaign, he lives in Tacoma.

Customer Reviews

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Michael Honey has done an excelllent job.
John V. Atkinson
Honey is an award-winning historian who has written two previous excellent books that demonstrate his skill as an oral historian.
Karl Helicher
Strongly recommended for anyone interested in history or sociology.
Roxann Lindsay

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Karl Helicher on January 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This might be the finest book written on Martin Luther King: it certainly is the best one that I have read about him. Honey is a splendid writer, with a style that I find more accessible than Taylor Branch's. No doubt that Branch has written the seminal history of King and his times, but his writing can become tedious due to too much detail and meandering sentences.

Honey is an award-winning historian who has written two previous excellent books that demonstrate his skill as an oral historian. The outstanding feature of this book is the numerous interviews he conducted with important figures, which keep the book always absorbing.

King receives much attention, but Honey shows that the Memphis strike was led by local workers and union officials who were fighting to escape the living hell of dangerous working conditions (the strike grew out of the deaths of two sanitation workers who were mangled in a malfunctioning garbage truck when they sought shelter from a rainstorm).

In addition to the stories about the local workers and organizers, King is portrayed as an important influence who was struggling with internal fighting among black civil rights groups, includng the NAACP, the Urban League, SCLC, and SNCC, the FBI, Lyndon Johnson, who was angered by King's anti-war proclamations, and most whites who thought King was moving too fast. Any reader who questions King's leadership and selflessness, needs to read this book to have those views dispelled.

Ultimately, the Memphis strike paved the way for labor improvements throughout the South.

This superb book should be considered for all major book prizes. For King scholars, it is essential and for all other informed readers, it is an excellent narrative of King and his times.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By John V. Atkinson on July 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As one who lived through the history recalled in this book,I found it excellent.It is great to read a book in which you personally knew all the people written about and recall all the events.Michael Honey has done an excelllent job.I highly recommend this book to all students of the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King jr. Especially I recommend it to all residents of Memphis and Tennessee.May we never allow this history to repeat itself
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J Martin Jellinek on May 14, 2008
Format: Paperback
Going Down Jericho Road is an excellent history of the sanitation workers' strike in Memphis and Martin Luther King's involvement in the spreading of the social gospel among America's poor. Michael Honey uses a lot of first-person recollections to bring this story to life and to unearth the racism and classism that defined so much of the nation, not just Memphis, in the 1960s. Behind this excellent tale are ongoing nagging questions. How would we react to the same situation today? Which side would we have supported in 1968? Have things really changed that much in forty years?

In Memphis, we now have a very visible middle class African American community with a black mayor and most public offices held by African Americans. Does this serve to mask the injustices which still plague the poor in this and many other communities? Has the rise of the middle class made the working poor and unemployed even more invisible? Is there any more community now between the white and black communities than there was in 1968?

I don't pretend to have definitive answers to these questions. However, just asking the questions and considering them in light of Michael Honey's historic journal makes one look twice at the comforts we enjoy in this world. If all books could get the reader thinking along these lines, this would be a much better world.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Julian Bene on July 29, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This vibrant account of MLK's last weeks before the assassination - and of the conditions of black workers in Memphis that drew him to the city - overcomes the cliches that have inevitably encrusted our view of the civil rights struggle. It reminds us what the fight was about and shows us how the actors behaved on all sides. The south in the 1960s was still a bastion of nakedly racist white power, exploiting black laborers unmercifully to keep the white middle class comfortable, with the media, cops, FBI and courts all stomping on the underdog. The book is a great case study of unionizing, of protest organizing and, for that matter, of strike-breaking and of undermining a progressive movement. It is enriched by a ton of detail culled from archival accounts, including FBI files.

One message that comes out from this detailed look is King's generosity and morality: his dedication to lift up blacks and others who were much less well off than he and his educated class. Regardless of threats from white supremacists, dirty tricks by Hoover's FBI, disunity among black movement leaders and trade unions, and his own doubts about what approaches to the Poor People's Campaign could be effective, King stuck with the sanitation workers. The rare altruism described in this book is an inspiration. It's a shame for our entire society that he had no true successors - and that the obstacles to progress towards a decent and just society are so darned hard to surmount.

Anyone looking to understand the late stages of the civil rights movement, the history of Memphis, the South in the 1960s, or the turmoil that Martin Luther King had to deal with will appreciate this book. It helps that it is intelligently and sensitively written from as balanced and objective a perspective as possible.
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