The night before, Dr. King delivered his Mountaintop Speech saying “I’ve seen the Promised Land…”
Tuesday, April 4, marks the 55th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Despite yearly commemorations from politicians and communities around the nation, conservative leaders’ fierce opposition to racial justice highlights a new assassination against the legacy Dr. King sought to build.
Caption: Stunned, silent members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Dr. King’s room at the Lorraine Motel, April 4, 1968, including Andrew Young (far left, under the table lamp) and civil rights leader and Dr. King’s colleague, Rev. Ralph Abernathy, in the middle on the far bed. Henry Groskinsky/Life Pictures/Shutterstock
The Nobel Peace Prize-winning civil rights leader was shot dead on April 4, 1968, at 6:05 p.m. after stepping outside his second-floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. In a single moment, his life was stolen as he tried to speak with members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference down below, according to archives from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University.
James Earl Ray, a 40-year-old fugitive was eventually apprehended, charged and convicted for the assassination of Dr. King, who was in Memphis to rally striking sanitation workers. Yet Ray’s claims of innocence and the FBI’s documented surveillance of Dr. King has mired the murder in mystery to this day.
What’s not unclear, however, was Dr. King’s unapologetic desire to achieve some semblance of racial equity in the United States. Notably, it wasn’t until after Dr. King launched his Poor People’s Campaign, a multi-racial coalition of Americans opposed to poverty and war, that years of assassination attempts turned into reality.
“Racism can well be that corrosive evil that will bring down the curtain on western civilization,” Dr. King once wrote.