It was Rev. Jesse Jackson who gave Coretta Scott King the bad news… But he lied. He did not tell her the truth regarding the severity of the gun shot wound that felled her husband, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Jackson was trying to protect her, to ease her pain. The damage was much worst. The bullet smashed his jaw, and traveled downward into his spinal column. Dr. King was dead.
Fifty years later, African-American Perspective Newsletter publisher Richard James recalls that night… April 4, 1968. “I was in the United States Air Force, stationed at newly computerized radar site in Maine. The commanding officer switched on the TV and asked all the radar operators to abandon their scopes to watch tragic history unfold. My co-workers and I saw the filmed announcement by Robert Kennedy, the Attorney General of the US, brother of slain President Kennedy, tell a crowd that Martin Luther King had been shot and killed. I was paralyzed with sadness but I dared not to cry openly. King, the man with the eloquent voice was gone. Taken away. I was sad. The anger would come later.”
Racial turmoil erupted in the country’s urban centers. The death of a man that promoted non-violent resistance, ironically stirred people to massive random acts of violence. At that time, we did not know that RFK would also be killed by a gunman later that year. Nineteen sixty-eight was a hell of a year.
In honor of Dr. King, let’s do quick review of his life:
January 15, 1929 – Martin Luther King, Jr, born in Atlanta, Georgia
February 25, 1948 – King is ordained at Ebenezer Baptist Church
June 8, 1948 – King graduates from Morehouse College
(King was only 19 years old)
May 8, 1951 – King receives Bachelor of Divinity degree from Crozer Theological Seminary
June 18, 1953 – King and Coretta Scott are married
May 2, 1954 – King delivers his first sermon as Dexter Avenue Baptist Church’s new minister, Montgomery Alabama
August 28, 1955 – Emmett Till murdered in Money Mississippi
Blacks across the deep South outraged.
December 1, 1955 – Rosa Parks is arrested for not giving her seat to a white man, Montgomery Alabama
December 2 – Women’s Political Council calls for bus boycott in Montgomery – Montgomery Improvement Association formed
January 12, 1956 – MIA board prolongs boycott indefinitely
January 30 – King’s house is bombed (but no one hurt)
April 23 – Supreme Court affirms appellate court’s ruling on bus segregation
April 24 – Montgomery mayor refuses to enforce Supreme Court’s ruling
November 15 – U.S. Supreme Court rules that bus segregation laws are unconstitutional
December 21 – Montgomery City Lines resumes full bus service
December 23 – King’s home attacked in the aftermath of bus desegregationSnipers attack buses, more bombings.
February 14, 1957 – King is elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
September 20, 1958 – King is stabbed in Harlem department store
(Between 1958 and 1963 King crisscrossed the country giving lectures, raising funds, doing TV interviews, leading protest marches, negotiating with business and government leaders.)
April 12, 1963 – King and Abernathy are arrested in Birmingham, Alabama. King writes his famous letter from Jail.
August 28 – March on Washington King’s I have a Dream Speech delivered to tens of thousands.
November 22 – President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas
March 26, 1964 – King meets Malcolm X
December 10, King receives Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo Norway
February 21, 1965 – Malcolm X is assassinated in Harlem NYC
August 6 – The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is signed into law
January 7, 1966 – King announces the start of the Chicago Campaign
August 5 – Angry whites attack civil rights march through Chicago’s southwest side
Dr. King was not well liked. He was pushing the country to fast in 1966. Few Americans approved of his tactics the he turned attention to the northern cities.
April 4, 1967 – King delivers his first public antiwar speech, “Beyond Vietnam,” at New York’s Riverside Church
December 4 – King launches the Poor People’s Campaign
March 18, 1968 – King speaks to striking sanitation workers in Memphis
April 3 – King delivers his final speech
April 4 – King is assassinated at Lorraine Motel
President Ronald Reagan signed the Martin Luther King Holiday Bill into law on Nov. 2, 1983