Update (April 5, 2008): Everyone’s knows of his “I Have a Dream” speech, but check out his very last speech in Memphis, the night before he was killed. Part one and part two, which is especially powerful and moving.
Photo Credit: Trikosko/Library of Congress
April 4, 1968- Dr. Martin Luther King was shot dead at a motel in Memphis, Tennessee. I was listening to NPR on the way to work this morning and heard a story of Robert Kennedy delivering news of MLK’s death:
It was supposed to be a routine campaign stop. In a poor section of Indianapolis, 40 years ago Friday, a largely black crowd had waited an hour to hear the presidential candidate speak. The candidate, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, had been warned not to go by the city’s police chief.
As his car entered the neighborhood, his police escort left him. Once there, he stood in the back of a flatbed truck. He turned to an aide and asked, “Do they know about Martin Luther King?”
They didn’t, and it was left to Kennedy to tell them that King had been shot and killed that night in Memphis, Tenn. The crowd gasped in horror.
“For those of you who are black and are tempted to … be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling,” he said. “I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.”
Many other American cities burned after King was killed. But there was no fire in Indianapolis, which heard the words of Robert Kennedy.
“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.”
Two months later, Robert Kennedy himself was felled by an assassin’s bullet.
Remember history and learn.