MLK “Death of a Legend”

On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. The 1964 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize taught and practiced a philosophy of nonviolence, only to be brutally murdered by a cowardly white supremacist’s bullet. 

The night before his murder King had given his famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” Speech and was advocating for a policy of true equality and self-determination of African-Americans that moved beyond the palate of status quo benefiting liberal elites. 

Accused of being a communist and racial agitator, King was not the popular icon that the lens of history views him today. Many of his contemporaries cheered his death in the spring of ’68, but Dr. King’s murder rocked the nation. It tore at our hearts and led black youths in major cities to demonstrate their visceral reaction through riots and rebellion. Scores of people were killed and injured in the carnage. 

The criminal culpability for his murder is well known. But it has too often been the norm to ignore the civil trial for his death, where the King family won a judgement holding the US government liable for his assassination. After his murder, King’s wife Coretta raised their family and his uplifted the memory of his martyrdom into an enduring legacy that takes account of what America has been — and holds hope for what that this country still has yet to become. 

Some spirits are too large for this Earth. Many among us dream dreams like Dr. King’s, but only the greatest bring them into the world.