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

5.0 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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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
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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: 6.5 x 1.9 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,129,049 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an amazingly readable, detailed, account of the Sanitation Worker's strike in Memphis in 1968. I was a college student in Memphis in 1968 and participated in the March 28th movement march and the memorial march following MLK's assassination. However, Michael Honey's account provided background and detail's of which I was embarrassingly totally unaware.
It will soon be fifty years since the events described here occurred; however, the underlying situation that existed, not only in Memphis but nationally, are still alive today. The promised land which Dr. King saw from the mountaintop the night before his death is still on the horizon. We may have moved closer to it, but we still are marching.
If you want to understand from where we have come, Michael Honey's book will provide an in depth view of one key moment in the journey.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
this book is eye opening for those that constantly think the Civil Right's movement was "over blown" .. or hey..it's over.. let's move on..
this is a startling look at the TN garbage strike and just how deplorable conditions were.. and how blind whites were as they felt "victimized" by "Black's getting uppity and wanting unions..." .. however this was facilitated and supported by a press and political regime that only released some information.. not only allowing whites to remain ignorant but encouraging their blindness to the issue at hand..

the appalling ignorance and racism makes for hard reading ..
as for MLK.. this book.. really doesn't show a lot of HIM.. in this .. yes he was there.. but he was not the center of this controversy, and although he helped and brought attention to it.. and eventually .. was murdered .. this story is less about MLK.. and more about the fight to get some type of fairness in TN for Black workers.
what this book talks about is a lot of the unfairness, the propoganda by whites/white press and just how manipulative a situation can become as the spin on the story .. pits racial tension
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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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