Review: All Labor Has Dignity – Martin Luther King, Jr.

The book, All Labor Has Dignity,” is a collection of Martin Luther King, Jr’s speeches edited by Michael Honey, a scholar of labor and African-American history. There are a number of speeches/sermons that have never been put into print before that Honey was able to track down and include. At the beginning of each speech Honey does a stellar job of offering some of the labor movement history and MLK’s own work role within that setting. Much of the book shows King’s constant support of the labor, at least its ideals (there are number of critiques he offers in the book as well), and his work to try and bring the labor movement together with the Civil Rights movement.

I was fascinated to learn how important King felt these two movements were for one another, and to learn about the huge amounts of support King was able to gain from the labor movement. It is clear from this collection that King was a huge supporter of the working class and saw the plight of all America’ poor, Black, White, Latina/o, etc as being bound-up together. The book is timely given the struggles in our country today, and reminds us just how important it is for all of us to seek the betterment of those who are struggling to survive.

My favorite section is the last three speeches where the book explains King’s “Poor People’s Campaign” a offers a few speeches that align with that work. Not least of which is the speech “All Labor Has Dignity” as his final “Mountaintop” sermon. King believed that the poor people of America needed to join forces and march to Washington (which they did, building an encampment called “Resurrection City”) and take back what was taken from them (their dignity, their jobs, and their money — largely being spent on the Vietnam war).

If you want a handbook for cultural change, here it is.

I can’t recommend this book enough, for both those who are drawn to King’s anti-racist work, as well as those who are interested in learning more about the labor movement and the struggles that workers have been going through in our country for a long time.

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Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.