One year after his passing, Ooligan Press remembers and honors Michael Munk, author of The Portland Red Guide. The Portland Red Guide explores the history of social dissent, labor movements, and leftist politics in the City of Roses, illuminating stories and struggles often overlooked in your average history textbook. Like his book, Munk’s life and writings were intertwined with Portland’s political history.
Born in Prague in 1934, Munk and his family fled the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, arriving in Portland in 1939. His alma maters include Hillside School, Lincoln High School, Reed College, and the University of Oregon, where he earned an MA in political science. In the 1950s, Munk was involved in a variety of leftist political activities including opposing nuclear testing, fighting against the firing of Reed College professor Stanley Moore, and serving as vice president of the Young Democrats of Oregon.
Munk was forced to leave Oregon by the federal government in 1959. He moved to New York where he continued his education and earned a PhD in politics from New York University. Over the next twenty-five years, he taught political science. Munk retired early and returned to Portland in the 1990s.
In a 2016 interview with Ooligan Press, Munk shared how retirement gave him time to further explore his interest in radical history and why the City of Roses was an ideal place to do this.
“The idea of doing it in Portland was inspired by living near the birthplace of John Reed. My idea was that in the same way that all the conventional historic sites related to the dominant narrative of history are considered to be inspiring places (Mount Vernon, etc.), why not try to stimulate people by introducing them to sites that evoke a different side of history?”
The Portland Red Guide was published in 2007 and a second edition was released in 2011. The first edition of the book received considerable praise, as highlighted on its page at Powell’s City of Books.
“Michael Munk is the Lewis and Clark of Portland’s radical past, leading his readers on a voyage of discovery through a long-lost and wonderfully evocative historical terrain. I only wish the Red Guide had been around in the days when I was one of those Portland radicals he writes about with such knowledge (and affection).” — Maurice Isserman, author of If I Had a Hammer: The Death of the Old Left and the Birth of the New Left
The book includes maps and walking tours, bringing a strong sense of physicality to the exploration of Portland’s political past.
“Going to these addresses can bring to mind what has gone before and perhaps, encourage more resistance today. I had no idea so much has happened in Portland. And reading the names of people who struggled and whom I worked with brought up lots of memories.” — Sandra Ford, former wife of Black Panther Party leader Kent Ford.
Beyond this book, Munk’s writings were published in the Oregon Historical Quarterly, the Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Science & Society, Portland Monthly, and Reed Magazine.
As reported by the Oregonian, Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission president David Milholland expressed last year that “Mike Munk will be missed, and his enthusiasm and influence will be a guiding force in creative and historical circles far into the future.”