New edition of UW Tacoma professor’s book of MLK’s speeches

A new paperback edition of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s labor speeches links the civil rights issues he was committed to with today’s issues of economic justice.

Michael K. Honey, professor of history in the Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences program at the University of Washington Tacoma,  collected and edited King’s writings on economic justice in All Labor Has Dignity (Beacon Press). A paperback version will appear in mid-January, just before the MLK birthday observance.

The collection begins with King’s lectures to unions early in his career as a civil rights leader and culminates with his “Mountaintop” speech supporting black sanitation workers on strike for union rights in Memphis. King’s assassination in 1968 occurred as he was helping support the sanitation workers.

“The Occupy movement has raised the issue of economic equality, a phrase used by King in 1968,” said Honey. “King also fought for collective bargaining rights in Memphis, just as done today in Wisconsin, Ohio, and other states. King said ‘right to work’ laws such as the one now being pushed in Indiana provide ‘no rights and no work.’”

The first section of Honey’s book covers highlights of the civil rights movement: the Montgomery bus boycott, the student sit-ins and freedom rides, the events leading up to the March on Washington in 1963. The second section shows King broadening his agenda from civil rights to economic rights for all. He told listeners that “the evil of war, the evil of economic injustice and the evil of racial injustice” are intertwined.

To offer the most accurate versions of the speeches, Honey painstakingly compared written versions to audio ones.

To order a copy of the book, visit http://www.beacon.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=2238 .

Honey’s other books are Southern Labor and Black Civil Rights: Organizing Memphis Workers (1993); Black Workers Remember: An Oral History of Segregation, Unionism, and the Freedom Struggle (1999); and Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King’s Last Campaign (2007).

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