Monday, January 21, 2008
The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King
By TILLY INGRAM
(Tilly Ingram was an eighth grader at South Middle School during the 2005-2006 school year.)
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a great civil rights leader. He became a spokesman for nonviolent protest after he managed the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955.(www.history1900s.about.com/cs/martinlutherking/a/mlkassass_p.htm). Dr.King was also the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner. He held on strong to his beliefs, even when he saw the Civil Rights movement being torn in two."Violence is what brought King back to Memphis in April, 1968."(www.history1900s.about.com).
"On April 3, 1968, Dr. King arrived in Memphis a little later than planned because there had been a bomb threat for his flight before takeoff." (www.history1900s.about.com) He was in Memphis to support 1,300 striking African-American sanitation workers. Dr. King and his friends were getting ready for dinner and were about to depart from the Lorraine Motel, where they were staying at in Memphis,Tennessee, on April 4th, 1968. He walked out onto the balcony and was shot by a sniper's bullet. Within fifteen minutes of the shot, Dr. King was rushed to St. Joseph's Hospital. The doctors tried emergency surgery, but the wound was too serious. He was pronounced dead at 7:05 P.M. The person who had killed Martin Luther King Jr. was James Earl Ray, who was apprehended a month later in Heathrow Airport in London. "He confessed to the killing, but retracted his confession after he had been imprisoned."(www.mlkassassination.history.com).
Ray was sentenced to 99 years in prison to escape the electric chair. He was known to have a great hatred of black people. While serving his sentence in Missouri, Ray refused to move to an open farm prison where conditions were better because he could not live with the black inmates. The reaction to Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination was mainly violent. Senator Robert F. Kennedy was addressing a crowd of 11,000 people at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, at the time of the shooting. He was a candidate for the presidential election that year. As Kennedy prepared for a flight to Indianapolis, he was told that Dr. King had been assassinated. "Kennedy recoiled when he heard the news, as though he had been struck by the bullet that took King's life."(www.politics.opinion.mlk.com). The immediate dilemma was whether to go ahead with the rally that had been arranged for Indianapolis's black ghetto. Kennedy was advised that when those people heard the news,they would riot. Word of King's death had not reached the 2,000 people who had gathered in Indianapolis to hear Robert F. Kennedy speak. Kennedy, wearing his brother's old black overcoat, mounted a flatbed truck, where he ignored the speech he had written for the event. He would find the words he was looking for as he spoke and broke the news to the crowd. "I have some very sad news for all of you, and I think sad news for all our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and killed tonight in Memphis,Tennessee." The gathered crowd reacted with horror as Kennedy delivered the dreadful news. "For those of you who are black . . . you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge . . .Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion, and love." (www.rfk.speeches.mlk.com). As a former Attorney General of the United States, Kennedy realized the potential for disaster that evening as the news spread quickly across the States. Violence had erupted across America. A wave of rioting struck 125 cities in 29 states. Forty-six people were killed, 2,600 injured, 21,000 arrested and damage to property estimated at $50 million dollars. In Chicago, Mayor Daley ordered police to "shoot to kill" arsonists; In Washington D.C., bullets and bombs exploded two blocks from the White House and everywhere, the National Guard and the Army were on the streets, as President Johnson dispatched 100,000 federal troops to contain the riots. In the coming months, with the United States consumed with riots, arson, and racial fury, Kennedy alone remained a figure of common hope, becoming "the last white politician who was trusted by black people." (www.rfk.speeches.mlk.com) Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's funeral was an elaborate event. More than 150,000 mourners attended his funeral at his old Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. The services were held on April 9th, 1968, at the church and on the campus of Morehouse College, with the President of the United States proclaiming a day of mourning and flags being flown at half-staff. The area where Dr. King is entombed is located on Freedom Plaza and is surrounded by the Freedom Hall complex of the Martin Luther King Jr Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Inc. The Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site, a 23-acre area was listed as a National Historic Landmark on May 5th, 1977, and was made a National Historic Site on October 10th, 1980 by the United States Department of the Interior.(www.martinlutherking.deatharticles.com)
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination changed the Civil Rights Movement and history quite a lot. Dr. King is remembered as a representative of achievement and his culture. His major legacy was the pieces of federal legislation passed in 1964 and 1965. King, more than any other leader, had been responsible for both the abstract and the concrete achievements of the Civil Rights Movement. He had dreamed and had acted. (www.martinlutherking_assassination_legacies.com) American minorities enjoyed an initial flurry of political empowerment in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 began to affect local elections. However, after this progress started to slow, and has remained comparatively sluggish. The "white flight" from cities to suburbs has left behind decaying neighborhoods with weak tax bases and "de facto" segregated schools. Celebrations of Martin Luther King Jr. often downplay his radical economic vision while highlighting his upbeat liberal rhetoric. The irony of his treatment as a national hero was perhaps most evident in the establishment of the holiday honoring him --- affected as it was by the staunch anti-communist Reagan Administration. The impact of Dr. King's legacy is very much evident in the way it is taught in school.
www.history1900s.about.com/cs/martinlutherking/a/mlkassass_p.htm 2) www.mlkassassination.history.com 3) www.politics.opinion.mlk.com 4) www.robertfkennedyspeeches.mlk.com 5) www.robertfkennedyspeeches.aftermath.com 6) www.rfk.speeches.mlk.com 7) www.martinlutherkingassassination.funeral.com