Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would be 89 years old now if his life wasn’t tragically taken in Memphis, Tennessee 50 years ago. Over the years, the dream Dr. King had for America and its children remains largely unrealized, and racial tensions along with division are higher than ever.
On the eve of his assassination, King arrived to Memphis and delivered his stirring last public address, at the Mason Temple, “I’ve Been To The Mountaintop,” which eerily foreshadowed his death. The civil rights leader was in town to support the Black sanitation workers on strike due to poor labor conditions and bigoted mistreatment.
The next day while at the Lorraine Hotel, King stepped outside to the balcony outside room 306 ahead of a planned evening event and was hit with a lone rifle shot from a distance. The gunman, James Earl Ray, was reportedly seen running from the scene, and he was later captured in London later that summer, and was sentenced to 99 years in the Tennessee State Penitentiary. Ray died in prison at the of 70 on April 23, 1998.
Conspiracy theories and hushed whispers are still going around in relation to King’s death. Some feel that the crusade led by the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover and the director’s obsession with tarnishing King’s legacy by threatening to expose his rumored infidelities along with the immersion of COINTELPRO tactics led to the leader’s demise.
While many issues King combated still exist in modern times, he would be encouraged to see children of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds joining together to speak out against gun violence, racism, sexism, homophobia, and other societal injustices. The dream is still attainable, even if it still feels somewhat elusive.
Learn more about MLK 50 celebrations, including the efforts of the National Civil Rights Museum, the former site of the Lorraine Hotel, by following this link:
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