'Where Do We Go From Here?' Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Worker's Rights

30 Pages Posted: 19 May 2020

Date Written: April 22, 2020


This article considers the important links between racial equality and workers’ rights in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s activism. Dr. King understood the connection between racial and economic subordination — he also understood that achieving racial justice would not be possible without achieving economic justice through a coalition between the civil rights and labor movements. This article chronicles Dr. King’s alliances with labor activists as well as the tensions between organized labor and civil rights activism. This article also highlights how Dr. King’s emphasis on labor activism informed his approach to fighting against segregation and on behalf of voting rights for African Americans.

For Dr. King, true racial equality was inseparable from economic empowerment.

Dr. King’s insight that racial discrimination was linked to the economic subordination of workers followed a great tradition of political activism within the United States on behalf of racial equality and the rights of workers. This article argues that advocates for workers’ rights and racial equality have been most successful when they worked together because race discrimination has been integrally connected to the exploitation of workers throughout our country’s history. Drawing on historical research, this article develops the links between labor movements and antislavery and civil rights activism in order to place Dr. King’s commitment to the rights of workers in context and to point the way forward. Activists in the fight for racial equality must heed Dr. King’s advice and form coalitions with labor organizers to fight the combined effects of racial injustice and economic subordination.

Keywords: civil rights, worker's rights, racial equality, legal history, Dr. Martin Luther King

JEL Classification: K31, K19, K39

Suggested Citation

Zietlow, Rebecca E., 'Where Do We Go From Here?' Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Worker's Rights (April 22, 2020). Harvard Law & Policy Review, Vol. 14, No. 1, 2020, University of Toledo Legal Studies Research Paper Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3582672

Rebecca E. Zietlow (Contact Author)

University of Toledo College of Law ( email )

2801 W. Bancroft Street
Toledo, OH 43606
United States
(419) 530-2872 (Phone)
(419) 530-7911 (Fax)

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics