April 4, 1968

April 4, 2018 § 6 Comments

Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis fifty years ago today.

Rev. King’s footprints crossed Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement. He led a March Against Fear in North Mississippi, visited Jackson, Meridian, Philadelphia , and other locales, was instrumental in “Freedom Summer,” and spread his message of nonviolent change — but unrelenting, inevitable change — across the South. He died a southerner in the South, murdered while encouraging striking garbage-workers in Memphis.

Those of us alive back then recall how he was libeled as  a “Communist,” charged with fomenting Black revolution, and hated because he insisted that America’s unjust, hateful system of Apartheid must end. His message was condemned by white politicians, many of whom capitalized on fear of desegregation among white voters to feather their own political nests.

But King, a martyr to his own cause, has over time prevailed. His remarkable life and untimely death were the catalyst for much change. Much of the racial interaction and Black achievement that we take for granted today would have been unimaginable in 1968.

King was right. History has proven him right.

1968 was a devastating year. In January alone, in Viet Nam the bloody seige of Khe Sanh began, the USS Pueblo was seized by North Korea, and the Tet Offensive rocked America’s confidence in the ever-expanding Viet Nam War. Later in the year, the nation was shocked by the assassination of Bobby Kennedy and unsettled by the violent protests and police reaction in Chicago at the Democratic National Convention. Prague Spring, led by Alexander Dubcek, brought the light of hope to Czechoslovakia in January, only to have it cruelly crushed by Warsaw Pact troops in August. “The Troubles” began in Ireland when police brutally beat protesters in Northern Ireland. Lyndon Johnson announced that he would not be a candidate for reelection as President after losing to Eugene McCarthy in the New Hampshire primary.

It would have been understandable were the Civil Rights Movement to have flickered out in the face of all this trauma, but the flame that Rev. King had lit was strong, and it burned bright, consuming and defeating hate, political expediency, and bigotry in its peaceful heat.

Fifty years along, our progress toward racial peace is not as advanced as Rev. King would have wished, but we are much further along than we would have been able to be without him.

§ 6 Responses to April 4, 1968

  • Well said, Judge, I was a college student that year and remember the events of 1968 well. I agree with analysis of that year and subsequent effect. Thanks,

    • Larry says:

      I was in the Spring of my Freshman year in college. I attended a memorial service off-campus outside the Catholic Cathedral downtown a couple of days later. There were onlookers, some of whom carried signs denouncing King and some jeering, most silent but disapproving. Police in riot gear guarded the perimeter; I don’t know whether they were there to keep the peace or thought they had to prevent the people attending the memorial service from rioting. We inside the perimeter were peaceful and prayerful. It was a somber event at a somber time.

  • Debbie Allen says:

    Thank you for being a bright light in a sometimes very dark room.

  • Eric Tiebauer says:

    A great entry. We tend to take too much for granted. Also liked your entry to Law Students about Honor. Keep up the great pointers — I need all the help I can get!

  • Hampton W. Glover says:

    Thank you again.

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