Martin Luther King Jr. on the 50 year anniversary of his death

Clayborn Benson

Clayborn Benson

A half century after the assassination of Rev Martin Luther King Jr, US civil rights leaders say they are fearful US President Donald Trump could reverse progress made on civil rights in the US since King's death. The motel, now part of the complex of the National Civil Rights Museum, is commemorating the 50th anniversary of King's assassination on April 4, 1968. Best of all perhaps, to my ears, is the sublime song "Shed A Little Light" by James Taylor, where the opening line is "let us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King..." And I've looked over and I've seen the Promised Land.

Chief among them are liberals who wear the cause of racial equality in America like a badge, while in practice ensuring it remains the dream that King embraced from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on that hot August day in 1963 in his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. And he was laying there in a puddle of blood.

In a country still torn over issues of race and class demonstrators rallied in Memphis, Tennessee where the pastor and Nobel Peace Prize Winner was slain aged 39 on the balcony of his motel by a white supremacist sniper on April 4, 1968, as well as in Washington where he delivered his historic "I Have a Dream" speech.

Throughout his life, King introduced a non-violent approach to civil rights that differed from other movements at the time.

The day of King's assassination, Robert F. Kennedy, who had recently announced his presidential candidacy, was slated to appear in Indianapolis.

"Where've you been? I've been looking for you all day long!"

"I remember watching the funeral on TV", said Streeter, a native of North Carolina.

Chagrined, Ragsdale says, "I had to tell him, 'Dr. I was in court'".

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Word had already spread that King had been killed as he was getting out of class. The constituency Martin Luther King represented and identified with is, in 2018, languishing within the country's vast prison network, home to over 2.2 million predominately young men of color.

"It's clear to me that the work is not complete", he said. "Then everybody picked up pillows and started beating me up". At the time, I didn't know what they were pointing at. "But this was childishly free".

The line outside the National Civil Rights Museum that is housed inside the motel, stretches with people eager for knowledge of his life and death. In response to King's death, many schools, museums, public libraries, and businesses closed and the Academy Awards ceremony scheduled for April 8 and numerous sporting events were postponed.

Bernice King previewed the exhibit this week along with Eric Holder, the first African-American U.S. attorney general. "He was able to capture the human predicament in a way that very few are able to capture, holistically".

"As we join our spirit of activism with so many in Memphis for [a] march and rally, our overarching goal is to lift up Dr. King's legacy of active participation in our democracy", NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a statement. In today's society, we need people like that.

Still, some civil rights leaders have not forgiven Trump for his reaction to the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, in which white nationalists demonstrated to preserve pro-slavery monuments and neo-Nazis chanted anti-Semitic slogans.

What King fought for, said Golden, was seen as "radical" by some at the time.

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