Category: Martin Luther King
Day the dream died: 50 years on from MLK assassination (VIDEOS)

Day the dream died: 50 years on from MLK assassination (VIDEOS)

Wednesday marks 50 years since Dr Martin Luther King Jr was gunned down on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.

A passionate orator, King’s distinctive voice captivated audiences in the United States and around the world. As one of the most visible leaders of the civil rights movement, he strove to end racial segregation and used the tactics of non-violence and civil disobedience to further the cause of workers’ rights.

He was in Memphis supporting striking sanitation workers the day he was murdered, April 4, 1968. The previous night he’d given a rousing speech to the workers in which he proclaimed, somewhat prophetically: “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now…. I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know the night that we as a people will get to the promised land.”

In as much as King’s rousing speeches inspired hope in his followers, they also instilled fear and suspicion in his enemies. Then-FBI Director J Edgar Hoover infamously ordered agents to wiretap King’s home and office phones. He also asked for listening devices to be planted in his hotel rooms as he crossed the country.

King was subject of an investigation by the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO) at the time of his death. He was monitored by both the CIA and NSA. This would later be used to cast doubt on the case against the shooter James Earl Ray and to speculate about possible collusion between elements of the US government and the assassin.

Ray initially confessed to murdering King but recanted his testimony shortly after being handed a 99-year prison sentence. Ray’s lawyer had convinced him to enter a guilty plea in order to avoid a trial that would likely have resulted in him being given the death sentence. A 1976 Senate investigation concluded that Ray probably had accomplices but said there was “no convincing evidence of government complicity in King’s assassination.”

Here, takes a brief look at the civil rights leader’s most iconic moments.

1963 I have a dream

King’s most famous speech took place in 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. In front of 250,000 people assembled on the Washington mall, King described his hopeful and inclusive vision for the country. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” he said.

“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted and, every hill and mountain shall be made low. The rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight. And the glory of the lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”

The following year, King, aged 35, became the youngest man to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and announced that the $50,000 prize money would be used to advance the fight for civil rights in America. That same year, King’s relentless pursuit of equality was bearing fruit. With civil rights atop the American political agenda, the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed.

In 1965, King was in Alabama to take part in the infamous series of marches from Selma to Montgomery in support of voting rights. Despite a vicious reaction by Alabama authorities, particularly during the violent events after the demonstrators crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, activists were undeterred. Later that year, the Voting Rights Act was passed.

Assassination and manhunt

Three years later, King, then 39, lay dying after being shot outside his room at the Lorraine Motel, leaving his wife Coretta and four children to carry on his legacy. His death sparked riots in more than 100 US cities, resulting in the deaths of 40 people. Authorities launched a manhunt after identifying James Earl Ray, a 40-year-old escaped convict, as the assassin.

Ray was eventually caught two months later travelling on a false Canadian passport in London. Upon recanting his confession, Ray claimed to have been framed by a gun-smuggler he knew only as ‘Raoul.’

His lawyer William Pepper campaigned to reopen his client’s case, a push that culminated in a televised interview between Ray and Dr King’s son, Dexter Scott King, in 1997. During the encounter, Dexter supported Ray’s claim that he was innocent. Despite this, the case was not reopened and Ray died in prison the following year.

Conspiracy theories continued to gain traction even after the assassin’s death. A Justice Department investigation conducted on behalf of the King family between 1998 and 2000 failed to turn up sufficient evidence to warrant a further investigation.

It’s 50 years since Dr Martin Luther King died at the hand of a gunman. However, his indomitable spirit lives on, notably in his nine-year-old granddaughter Yolanda Renee King, who recently took to a podium to call for an end to gun-violence in the wake of the Parkland High School tragedy.

Like this story? Share it with a friend!

By David Fleming

Video Sergio Angulo


50 years on from Martin Luther King’s murder, hypocrisy reigns in America

50 years on from Martin Luther King’s murder, hypocrisy reigns in America

John Wight
John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1
50 years on from Martin Luther King's murder, hypocrisy reigns in America
On the 50th anniversary of his assassination, it is hard to think of anyone whose legacy has been so misrepresented as that of Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King (MLK) dedicated his life to the pursuit of truth regardless of the consequences, personal or political. Thus, at the time of his murder at the hands of a white supremacist on April 4, 1968 in the city of Memphis, where he had arrived to lead a march of the city’s sanitation workers over pay and conditions, King found himself an isolated figure.

Indeed, in an uncanny example of a death foretold, on the eve of his assassination, at the end of both the last and one of the most famous speeches he ever gave, the black civil rights leader proclaimed, “I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And so I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

King, by now, had alienated many of his white liberal champions and supporters in Washington, and also many of his friends and followers within the black civil rights movement, over his vocal opposition to the war in Vietnam. Meanwhile, his refusal to budge from the principal of non-violence when it came to the struggle for racial justice and equality had shed him support within the wider black civil rights movement among a young generation of activists whose anger and frustration at the lack of progress when it came to achieving justice for black people was at the breaking point.

King biographer James H. Cone writes that King’s “sermons [opposing Vietnam] were delivered against the advice of many of his friends and followers… who told him to keep silent about the war because he was alienating President Johnson and [the movement’s] financial supporters.” No matter, Cone elaborates, because King “could not overlook [America’s] great contradictions of racism, poverty, and militarism.”

In the five decades that have elapsed since Martin Luther King’s assassination, those same contradictions have, rather than lessen or move an inch towards being overcome, sharpened to the point where America has been pitched into seemingly terminal decline – at war with itself at home and struggling to deal with a world it is no longer able to dominate, and which is no longer willing to be dominated. “It [America] can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over,” King declared in one of his most famous speeches, ‘Beyond Vietnam,’ which was delivered in 1967 – a year to the day in advance of his assassination.

Surveying the world today, who could possibly refute that the “deepest hopes of men” across the planet have indeed been destroyed by dint of the juggernaut that is US imperialism? Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya – destroyed; justice for a Palestinian people suffering under the iron heel of apartheid and occupation – blocked; the Global South locked inside an inescapable prison of under-development, courtesy of free market fanaticism dressed up as freedom and democracy. These are the fruits of US hegemony, an empire sustained by an insatiable appetite for human suffering and despair.
It is why the chorus of US establishment voices that never miss an opportunity to spout insincere platitudes whenever Martin Luther King’s name is raised or his legacy commemorated, are swimming in hypocrisy.

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. Here, for example, speaketh former US President Bill Clinton: “We should all thank God for Dr. King and John Lewis and all those who gave us a dream to guide us, a dream they paid for, like our founders, with their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor.”

Powerful words, dripping in cliché, which ring hollow from a man who in 1994 introduced into law via the US Congress the country’s infamous omnibus crime bill. This he did with the fulsome support of his wife, Hillary, to usher in mass incarceration, which in the years since has had a devastating and disproportionate impact on black communities across America. Of Clinton’s presidency and on the legacy of the crime bill he brought into law, journalist and author Thomas Frank writes, “The former president made sure low-level drug users felt the full weight of state power at the same moment bankers saw the shackles that bound them removed.”

Oh, by the way, speaking of Hillary, here she is in 2008, revealing her reaction to the news of King’s assassination, when she was a young college student: “I walked into my room, and hurled my bag across the room like everything had been destroyed.” Theatrics aside, a rather better reaction, I’m sure you will agree, than the one she displayed at the news of the foul murder of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, when the then-secretary of state clapped her hands with glee and intoned, “We came, we saw, he died.”

Though the Clintons may constitute a particularly noxious example of the opportunism and hypocrisy that is the beating heart of the liberal political tradition in the land of the free, a still more egregious example comes in the personage of Barack Obama. Here, I must give way to Cornel West: “We see the richest prophetic tradition in America desecrated in the name of a neoliberal worldview, a worldview King would be in direct opposition to. Martin [Luther King] would be against Obama because of his neglect of the poor and the working class and because of the drones, because he is a war president, because he draws up kill lists. And Martin [Luther] King would have nothing to do with that.”

On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of a man whose struggle for racial equality had by the time he was killed evolved into a struggle for social and economic justice for poor sanitation workers in cities like Memphis, and an end to the slaughter of poor people overseas, Martin Luther King’s legacy will be fawned over by champions and beneficiaries of a Washington establishment that he had come to realize was the obstacle to justice in America rather than its enabler.

In 2018, the constituency King spent his adult life fighting for – America’s poor, racially oppressed, and dispossessed – is not to be found in the palatial homes and state rooms of the rich and powerful, people adept at extrapolating selective quotes from King’s speeches and inserting them in theirs. 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. Consider for a moment the thoughts of US playwright August Wilson: “The most valuable blacks are those in prisons, those who have the warrior spirit, who had a sense of being African… The greatest spirit of resistance among blacks [is] found among those in prison.” 

The reality, one inescapable, is that five decades after an assassin’s bullet ended his life on a hotel balcony in Memphis, Martin Luther King’s dream of racial equality in America died with him. And when it comes to an accurate rendering of his legacy, we are obligated to ponder a hypothetical – namely that if alive today, King would be outside protesting the crimes of the politicians and former presidents at the fancy dinners and commemoration events being held in his honor.

Like this story? Share it with a friend!

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Still wandering the wilderness 50 years later | Opinion
worker | April 2, 2018 | 8:22 pm | Martin Luther King | Comments closed

Still wandering the wilderness 50 years later | Opinion

This Wednesday (April 4) will mark 50 years since the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated as he stood on the second-floor landing outside his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. He was just 39 years old.

King was in Memphis to support 1,300 sanitation workers who had gone on strike to protest a long pattern of neglect and abuse by the city that included being barred from using showers that were reserved for white workers and being ineligible to collect a pension. When two of their co-workers were crushed to death on a garbage truck in February 1968, the city’s black sanitation employees organized to demand better working conditions and higher pay.

Initial efforts at nonviolent protest had disintegrated into chaos, but King returned to Memphis in early April for another try.

At a meeting at the Mason Temple, Church of God in Christ, the night before he was gunned down, King delivered his final sermon, which is best remembered for its closing lines.

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead,” he told the crowd. “But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind.

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land.

“And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

A half-century later, and 10 years longer than the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, it’s impossible not to wonder what King would think of the journey now. Is the promised land any closer? Is the nation just as sick?

By all accounts, King was tired and stressed when he made his return to Memphis. Despite his successes of the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott in 1956, the 1963 March on Washington and the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many in the movement — especially those in the younger generation — were growing impatient with King’s nonviolent approach. New leaders preaching Black Power and more direct action were rising.

And focusing only on the last words of his final sermon, it sounds as though King had reconciled himself to passing from the scene like Moses giving way to Joshua to take over the next stage of the battle.

But there is so much in the rest of his sermon that makes it clear that King was in no way prepared to give up the fight.

“The issue is injustice,” he said. “The issue is the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants, who happen to be sanitation workers. Now, we’ve got to keep attention on that.”

And although the speech will always be remembered as his “Mountaintop” sermon, King made it clear that he was in Memphis for the here and now.

“It’s all right to talk about ‘Long white robes over yonder,’ in all of its symbolism,” he said. “But ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here. It’s all right to talk about ‘streets flowing with milk and honey,’ but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can’t eat three square meals a day.

“It’s all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God’s preacher must talk about the New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee. This is what we have to do.”

As Christians around the world celebrate Easter, it would be good to remember that tension between God’s promises of eternity and the reality of living in a fallen world. It’s the problem of being so heavenly minded you’re no earthly good.

It’s what some call the theology of “already but not yet.” Christians enjoy the “already” benefits of the atonement achieved through Jesus’ death on the cross — remission of sins, adoption as children, the indwelling Holy Spirit — but we await our glorification and the destruction of our sinful natures.

That night in Memphis, Dr. King could talk about “not fearing any man” because he knew the promises were true. But he also expected to be marching again soon with the sanitation workers.

Fifty years later, the promised land remains in the distance and the world is still sick. Some make it to the mountaintop. The rest of us should link arms and help each other get through the valleys.

Tim Morris is an opinions columnist at | The Times-Picayune. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @tmorris504.

Martin Luther King Opposed Everything Liberal America Represents
worker | January 18, 2018 | 9:07 pm | African American history, Analysis, Martin Luther King | Comments closed

Martin Luther King Opposed Everything Liberal America Represents

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gives a young picket a pat on the back as a group of youngsters started to picket St. Augustine, Fla.

Martin Luther King Opposed Everything Liberal America Represents

© AP Photo/

Get short URL
John Wight

There is nothing quite so nauseating as liberal America associating itself with the legacy of Dr Martin Luther King Jr., a man who stood against everything it stands for and represents, such as cozying up to Wall Street and the rich at home while unleashing war without end overseas.

That Martin Luther King Day is an annual circus of liberal hypocrisy is evidenced in the likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton using it an opportunity to engage in gushing tribute to a man whom, if alive today, would be among their most impassioned adversaries. As US academic Cornel West writes, “The litmus test for realizing King’s dream was neither a black face in the White House nor a black presence on Wall Street. Rather, the fulfillment of his dream was for all poor and working people to live lives of decency and dignity.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. receives Nobel Peace prize from Gunnar Jahn, the chairman of the Nobel Committee in Oslo, Norway in 1964
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. receives Nobel Peace prize from Gunnar Jahn, the chairman of the Nobel Committee in Oslo, Norway in 1964

It is hard to think of a political figure whose life and legacy been so abused, distorted, and exploited as Martin Luther King’s. Indeed, it is impossible to quantify the extent to which the true meaning of his work has suffered by dint of its appropriation by a liberal establishment that cloaks its mendacity and murderous propensity for war in the garb of compassion and democracy. When, for example, Hillary Clinton is tweeting the words of MLK, celebrating his life, you know you have entered the desert of the real.

So what then did Martin Luther King actually stand for? A trite response to that question is everything that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and others of their kind do not stand for – namely justice for the poor of America and poor countries of the world threatened by America. Thus MLK was not killed because he had a ‘dream’ he was killed because he was awake to the fact that the United States government was, in his words, “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”

The speech in which he spoke those words is titled ‘Beyond Vietnam’. It is one of his most famous, which he delivered in New York in 1967 a year before his assassination in the midst of an imperialist war that would claim the lives of two million Vietnamese and 80,000 Americans by the time it ended in 1975.

READ MORE: Faith Leaders Protest Against Trump, Racism at MLK ‘Dream’ Speech Rally

But widely overlooked as a result of the sanitization of MLK’s legacy by this liberal establishment, for which opportunism is a mandatory requirement, is the animus that was directed at him for daring to oppose the war in Vietnam. As King biographer, James H Cone reveals, “Martin also felt that the vehement criticisms that he received from the white community regarding his opposition to the Vietnam War were motivated by racism.”

Many of those critical voices from within the white community were former allies in Washington, including within the Johnson administration, who’d been happy to support him when his focus was on racial equality at home but refused to understand or accept the circular relationship between structural racism at home and racist wars unleashed overseas.King was a man who did come to understand this relationship, along with the rank hypocrisy of opposing one while not opposing the other, which is why he became such a threat to the moral foundations of the liberal status quo. As he said to one of his black colleagues after said colleague expressed concerns that MLK’s stance against the war in Vietnam would alienate liberal support for the struggle for black civil rights at home, “what you’re saying my get you a foundation grant but it won’t get you into the kingdom of truth.”

The radicalism embraced by MLK towards the end of his life was the product of his refusal to ignore the truth his eyes were imparting to him. His belief and trust in a liberal establishment to deliver justice not only to black Americans but poor Americans had been rocked by the shocking condition of the poor of all colors and race he witnessed while touring the country.

READ MORE: Sanders Carries Torch as US Marks Death of Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the eminently informed analysis of Cornel West the “radical King was a democratic socialist who sided with poor and working people in the class struggle taking place in capitalist societies. This class struggle may be visible or invisible, manifest or latent. But it rages on in a fight over resources, power, and space.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.
© Photo: Wikipedia / Dick DeMarsico, World Telegram staff photographer – Library of Congress

West’s assertion is proved by MLK’s championing of the struggle of sanitation workers in Memphis for better pay and conditions a couple of months before he was murdered in 1968. “And I come by here to say that America too is going to hell if she doesn’t use her wealth,” he declared in a speech at a rally of striking workers and their supporters in the city. “If America does not use her vast resources of wealth to end poverty and make it possible for all of God’s children to have the basic necessities of life, she too will to hell.”Can anyone seriously imagine Hillary Clinton endorsing such sentiments, a woman whose embrace of Wall Street and big business is a matter of record? Or how about Barack Obama, Washington’s first black president, who swore his oath of office on MLK’s own personal bible?

READ MORE: Rallies Erupt in Cities All Around Country to Reclaim Legacy of MLK Jr.

Cornel West is someone who is in no doubt as to the insult to King’s legacy Obama’s transparent attempt to posit his election to the White House the symbolic culmination of MLK’s ‘dream’: “The dream of the radical King for the first black president surely was not a Wall Street presidency, drone presidency, and surveillance presidency with a vanishing black middle class, devastated black working class, and desperate black poor people clinging to fleeting symbols and empty rhetoric.”

When it comes to the legacy of Martin Luther King, the biting insight of Irish rebel leader James Connolly applies: “Apostles of freedom are ever crucified when alive, but glorified when dead.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.