Michael Honey

Michael K. Honey is the Haley Professor of Humanities, former Harry Bridges Chair of Labor Studies at the University of Washington, a Martin Luther King scholar, and a former southern civil rights organizer.  He is co-producer and director of the documentary film Love and Solidarity: Rev. James M. Lawson and Nonviolence in the Search for Workers’ Rights; and author of Sharecropper’s Troubadour: John L. Handcox, the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union, and the African American Song Tradition  (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013); Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, King’s Last Campaign (W.W. Norton, 2007); Black Workers Remember: An Oral History of Segregation, Unionism, and the Freedom Struggle (University of California Press, 1999); Southern Labor and Black Civil Rights: Organizing Memphis Workers (University of Illinois Press, 1993); and editor, Martin Luther King, Jr., “All Labor Has Dignity” (Beacon Press, 2011). A Guggenheim, Rockefeller, and National Endowment for the Humanities fellow, he has received numerous book awards and recognition for combining service and activism with scholarship. He is a graduate of Howard University (MA), Northern Illinois University (PhD), and Oakland University (BA).

Visit Michael's website for for more information about academic work, projects, books, and contact information. 

Read Michael's writing contributions to Beacon Broadside:

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Current Projects

Love and Solidarity: Rev. James Lawson and Nonviolence in the Search for Workers' Rights
Documentary film, Runtime: 38 minutes
For more information, visit www.loveandsolidarity.com

“Love and Solidarity” explores nonviolent organizing in countering historically institutionalized and societal exploitation and violence through the life, teachings, and experiences of African American Methodist minister Rev. James M. Lawson. Lawson provided strategic guidance while working with Martin Luther King, Jr., in southern freedom struggles and the Memphis sanitation strike of 1968. Moving to Los Angeles in 1974, Lawson continued his nonviolence organizing in multi-racial community and worker coalitions that have helped to remake the LA labor movement. Through interviews and historical documents, Michael Honey and award-winning filmmaker Errol Webber put Lawson’s discourse on nonviolent direct action on the front burner of today’s struggles against economic 
inequality, racism and violence, and for human rights, peace, and economic justice. 



Sharecropper’s Troubadour: John L. Handcox, the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union, and the African American Song Tradition

Descended from African American slaves, Native Americans, and white slaveowners, John Handcox was born to a family of poor Arkansas sharecroppers at one of the hardest times to be black in America. Over the first few decades of the twentieth century, he survived attempted lynchings, floods, droughts, and the ravages of the Great Depression to organize black and white farmers alike on behalf of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union. He also became one of the most beloved folk singers of the prewar labor movement, composing songs such as "Roll the Union On" and "There Is Mean Things Happening in this Land" that bridged racial divides and kept the spirits of striking workers high. Though he withdrew from the public eye for nearly forty years, missing the "folk boom" of the 1960s, he resurfaced decades later - just in time to denounce the policies of the Reagan administration in song - and his work was embraced by new generations of labor activists and folk music devotees. This fascinating and beautifully told oral history gives us John Handcox in his own words, recounting a journey that began in a sharecropper's shack in the Deep South and went on to shape the labor music tradition, all amid the tangled and troubled history of the United States in the twentieth century.