Michael K. Honey participated in the Bellagio residency program in 2004. During this residency, he worked on Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King’s Last Campaign (WW Norton, 2006). Michael is a former Southern civil rights and civil liberties organizer, and Haley Professor Emeritus of Humanities at the University of Washington Tacoma, where he taught labor and ethnic studies and American history.
Going Down Jericho Road has won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, International Labor History Association Book Award and the Organization of American Historians Liberty Legacy Award.
A few words with Michael
“While at the Bellagio Center, I worked on the book conceptually, especially the role of the FBI in surveilling King. This book came after two other books I wrote on labor and civil rights history leading up to the Memphis sanitation strike and King’s death in 1968.”
Going Down Jericho Road is 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.
To find out more about Michael’s work, you can visit his University of Washington Tacoma profile, or read his 2020 piece in Time, “What Happened to Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream of Economic Justice?”
Michael has written three more books on King and U.S. labor and civil rights history.