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Podcast Review: Holy Week

Holy Week is a fascinating series about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the violence that erupted as a result of it. The title of the podcast is derived from violence occurring during Holy Week following King's death. The podcast is a production of The Atlantic and the host is Vann R. Newkirk II. Interviews with those lived through this time period are included in this podcast. You additionally learn what Martin Luther King Jr. was doing in Memphis before he was killed. Holy Week is an educational and engaging podcast that will fascinate listeners.

At the beginning of the podcast, you are given a summary of rioting in the United States that resulted from the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The riots began on April 4, 1968 (known as the Holy Week Uprising) and lasted almost two months in parts of the country. There were riots in over 100 places that resulted in thousands being injured and forty-three people being killed. Thousands of National Guardsmen were ordered into cities to quell rioting.

Newkirk interviews Roland Smith who witnessed rioting in Washington D.C. Smith talks about how he was incarcerated in prison at the time and that he could see flames and smoke engulf buildings from the hospital ward where he was working.

Vanessa Lawson Dixon is another witness to the Holy Week Rising. Dixon and her brother Vincent were at their home when rioting began. They were told to stay indoors by their mother but Vincent snuck out and he was never seen again. It is not until the end of the podcast that you learn what happened to him. Dixon’s tale is one of many tragedies that resulted from this violence. 

In Holy Week, you are given historical context about why King was in Memphis. He was organizing support for striking sanitation workers that endured terrible working conditions.Two sanitation workers were crushed to death while working in poor conditions a couple of months before King arrived. His support for the strikers reenergized Black Power groups support for him who felt he was becoming too soft. Members of The Invaders, a Black Power group in Memphis, were interviewed by Newkirk and they describe their interactions with King shortly before he was killed. The stories illustrate what King’s mission was until the last moments of his life.

There are other parts to the podcast that chronicle Black Movements and riots that occurred in the United States prior Martin Luther King’s death. I highly recommend listening to Holy Week from start to finish to gain a complete understanding of the Holy Week Uprising and why it occurred. The stories told by witnesses to this tumultuous period in history are incredible and Newkirk does an excellent job of providing details behind their stories.

You can listen to Holy Week online or through apps such as Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Michael Walsh is an Adult Services Librarian at the Will Library. He is currently reading Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann.


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