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Town Hall Seattle: Civics Series

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May 17, 2018

Fifty years ago, a single bullet robbed us of one of the world’s most eloquent voices for human rights and justice—Martin Luther King Jr. Humanities professor Michael K. Honey convened us for a modern application of King’s advocacy for racial harmony with insight from his book To the Promised Land. He was joined in conversation with La TaSha Levy, who teaches American Ethics Studies and courses on African American history at the University of Washington-Seattle.

Honey and Levy explored King’s profound commitment to the poor and working class, and his call for nonviolent resistance to all forms of oppression―including the economic injustice that “takes necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes.” They outlined the progressive stages of King’s agenda—his fight for the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, and his organizing efforts of the poor in their demonstrations for union rights. They related the paths of King’s activism to the movements of the modern day, examining how such progressive campaigns (of then and now) accelerate towards a “moral revolution” to replace the self-seeking individualism of the rich with an overriding concern for the common good. “Either we go up together or we go down together,” King cautioned, a message just as urgent in America today as then. Honey and Levy challenged us to think about what it would mean to truly fulfill King’s legacy and move toward his vision of “the Promised Land” in our own time.

Michael K. Honey, a former Southern civil rights and civil liberties organizer, is Haley Professor of Humanities at the University of Washington Tacoma, where he teaches labor, ethnic, and gender studies and American history. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and has won numerous research fellowships and book awards for his books on labor, race relations, and civil rights history, including the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award for Going Down Jericho Road.

La TaSha Levy is an assistant professor in the American Ethnic Studies Department at the University of Washington-Seattle where she teaches courses on African American history and politics. Her research interests include twentieth century Black political history and social movements. A Black Studies scholar, Levy earned a B.A. in African American and African Studies from the University of Virginia, a master’s in African American Studies from Cornell University’s Africana Studies and Research Center, and a Ph.D. in African American Studies from Northwestern University. Her current book manuscript, Race Matters in the GOP: Black Republican Politics and the Limits of the Two-Party System explores the transformations in Black Republican rhetoric and policy agendas during the height and decline of the Black Freedom Movement.

Recorded live at University Lutheran Church by Town Hall Seattle on Wednesday, May 9, 2018.