Reviews for Marching to the Mountaintop : How Poverty, Labor Fights, and Civil Rights Set the Stage for Martin Luther King's Final Hours


Booklist Reviews 2012 February #1
Bausum offers an inspiring glimpse of the civil rights movement and the power of nonviolent resistance through an examination of the Memphis sanitation workers' strike in 1968. It all started in February, when two public workers were crushed to death by a faulty garbage truck. Festering tensions over unfair pay, the impossibility of promotion, and job safety boiled over, and African American workers went on strike. As the spring wore on and mountains of garbage grew in city streets, silent protests and picket lines were organized. Students familiar with the civil rights movement will know that this historical episode had a tragic ending, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The book's sharp design features a pictorial cast of characters to aid visually minded readers, and the photographs of hundreds of workers in the streets, armed with signs reading "I am a man," leave a moving impression. A lyrical foreword by King's friend and associate, the Reverend James Lawson, is included, and the amply stocked back matter includes a detailed time line, accounts of eight of King's notable campaigns, and thorough source citations. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Fall
"This book is about the story of garbage in...Memphis, Tennessee--and the lives of the men tasked with collecting it." Bausum's well-researched history traces events in 1968 Memphis, beginning with a sanitation workers' strike and culminating with Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. Though the busy design is distracting, the plentiful, well-captioned (unnecessarily tinted) photos extend the compelling narrative. Reading list, timeline, websites. Bib., ind.

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Kirkus Reviews 2011 December #2
The intersection of the 1968 Memphis garbage strike, the Poor People's Campaign and the last days of Martin Luther King Jr. is brought to vivid life in a fine work of history writing. Who knew that the story of garbage in Memphis, Tenn., could be so interesting, and so important? By 1968, Martin Luther King Jr.'s work had expanded beyond the social reforms of integration and voting rights to speaking out for economic justice and against the war in Vietnam. King, along with with a young activist named Marian Wright and others, was planning the Poor People's Campaign, a march on Washington of the nation's poor. The garbage workers in Memphis "represented exactly the sort of poor people his effort sought to help," so off he went. This is history from the ground up, and Bausum makes good use of oral histories, newspapers, pamphlets, letters and photographs to tell her tale. Unfortunately, the fine historical narrative is undercut by the distracting design of the volume, cluttered with huge orange quotation marks throughout and photographs tinted blue, green and orange. The well-chosen photographs left untouched and the excellent writing would have sufficed for a topnotch nonfiction work. Readers will be eyewitnesses to history in this story of one fateful chapter in the Civil Rights Movement, if they can get past the design. (research notes, resource guide, bibliography, citations) (Nonfiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 March

Gr 6 Up--It is common knowledge that Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN, on April 4, 1968. What is less generally discussed is the reason he was there--his involvement with the sanitation workers' strike. This beautifully illustrated, clearly laid out recounting of King's involvement with the strike presents the precipitating causes as well as the course of the action. Eight chapters cover the deaths of two sanitation workers, which triggered protests that morphed into the strike; the impasse between the city and the workers; the impact of larger movements, such as Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty and the Civil Rights Movement; the series of protest marches; King's last days and assassination; and the resolution of the strike and the denouement of the Civil Rights Movement. A pictorial guide to the people who figured in the action precedes the subsequent chapters, which use spiritual verses as epigrams and feature perfectly placed photographs that extend the lucid text. While the vocabulary is relatively advanced, the combination of pictorial presentation with informative text should draw in adolescent readers. Research notes, a resource guide (listing books, music, documentary films, places to visit, and websites), an extensive bibliography, a citation list, and an index conclude this fine and informative look at the crossover between labor actions and civil rights. With a narrower focus than Milton Meltzer's There Comes a Time: The Struggle for Civil Rights (Random, 2001), this is an excellent source for curricular extension in American history courses.--Ann Welton, Helen B. Stafford Elementary, Tacoma, WA

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