In March 1968, Martin Luther King is moving to Memphis (Tennessee) to support local black garbage collectors who are on strike since March 12 to get a better salary and better treatment. African-Americans were paid $ 1.70 an hour and were not paid when they could not work due to climate, unlike the white workers. Violence broke out around the peaceful marches, and a young African-American was killed.
On April 3, at Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ, Inc.. – Headquarters), Martin Luther gave his prophetic speech “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” ( “I was at the top of the mountain) before a crowd euphoric:
“It’s not really important what happens now … Some have begun to talk about the threats that emerge. What could happen from one of our sick white brothers … Like everyone, I lived a long life. Longevity is important, but I am not concerned with it now. I just want to fulfill the will of God. And he gave me permission to climb the mountain! And I looked around me, and I saw the Promised Land. I might not go there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people, will reach the Promised Land. And I am so happy tonight. I have no fear. I have no fear of humans. My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord! “
On 4 April 1968 Martin Luther King was assassinated by a white segregationist on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis in Tennessee. His last words on the balcony are to the musician Ben Branch that were to happen that night at a public meeting attended by Martin Luther:
“Well, expect to play Precious Lord, Take My Hand (Lord, take my hand) at the meeting tonight. It plays the most beautiful way. “
His friends in the motel room heard gunshots and ran to the balcony to find Martin Luther King shot in the throat. He was pronounced dead at St. Joseph’s Hospital at 7:05 PM. The assassination caused a wave of race riots in 60 cities in the United States (125 in total) that leave many dead and requires the intervention of the National Guard.
Five days later, President Johnson declared a day of national mourning (the first for an African-American) in honor of Martin Luther King. Over 300,000 people attended his funeral inclduing on the same day that Vice President Hubert Humphrey (Johnson was at a meeting on Vietnam at Camp David ). Riots erupt in anger over 100 cities and leave behind 46 injured.
At the request of his widow, Martin Luther made his own funeral oration with his last sermon “Drum Major” recorded at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. In this sermon, he asked that his funeral no mention of his honors are made, but it said that he had tried to “feed the hungry”, “clothe the naked,” “be right on the issue Vietnam “and” love and serve humanity. ” At his request, his friend Mahalia Jackson sang his favorite hymn, Take My Hand, Precious Lord.
Memphis negotiates an end to the strike in a manner favorable to collectors after the assassination.
According to biographer Taylor Branch, King’s autopsy revealed that although only 39 years old, his heart seemed a man aged 60, showing the effect of physical stress of 13 years in the movement for civil rights. Between 1957 and 1968, King traveled more than 9.6 million km, spoke in public more than 2,500 times, the police arrested him more than twenty times and physically assaulted him at least four times.
Speeches that Changed the World: The Stories and Transcripts of the Moments that Made History. Quercus.
Baldwin, Lewis V. (1992). To Make the Wounded Whole: The Cultural Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.. Fortress Press.
Warren, Mervyn A. (2001). King Came Preaching: The Pulpit Power of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. InterVarsity Press.
King, Jr., Martin Luther; Clayborne Carson; Peter Holloran; Ralph Luker; Penny A. Russell (1992). The papers of Martin Luther King, Jr.. University of California Press.
Ling, Peter J. (2002). Martin Luther King, Jr.. Routledge.
Nojeim, Michael J. (2004). Gandhi and King: The Power of Nonviolent Resistance. Greenwood Publishing Group