Southern Labor and Black Civil Rights chronicles the rarely studied southern industrial union movement from the Great Depression to the cold war, using the strategically located river city of Memphis as a case study. Michael Honey analyzes the economic basis of segregation and the denial of fundamental human rights and civil liberties it entailed. Frequently telling his story through personal portraits of those directly involved, Honey documents the dramatic labor battles and sometimes heroic activities of organizers and ordinary workers that helped to set the stage for segregation's demise. His study of interracial industrial union organizing locates some of the roots of the 1960s civil rights struggles in this earlier era. Honey provides a new context for understanding Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 1968 campaign in support of poor people and black labor organizing in Memphis. This detailed account provides a fresh perspective on African-American, labor, civil rights, and southern history. It clarifies the relationship between labor and civil rights struggles, deepens our understanding of the role of racism in blocking working-class advancement, and emphasizes the importance of southern interracial organizing to the history of social movements in the United States.
Michael K. Honey is the Fred T. and Dorothy G. Haley Professor of the Humanities at the University of Washington Tacoma. He is the author, most recently, of Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King's Last Campaign. He is also the award-winning author of Black Workers Remember: An Oral History of Segregation, Unionism, and the Freedom Struggle.