April 4, 1968 — How Many Americans Remember

April 4, 1968 — How Many Americans Remember

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By Larry Miller of the Philadelphia Tribune

“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!”

Those were the last public words spoken by Martin Luther King Jr. He was assassinated 45 years ago on April 4, 1968 and his murder was one of the defining moments in American history and yet, one that seems to have been forgotten or ignored by many African Americans in 2013.

As of Tribune press time there were no statements issued from the White House. Only a handful of national events commemorated the assassination. A notable event in Memphis, Tenn. was spearheaded by the sanitation workers whose strike brought King to Memphis.

“I have to say that I’m not really surprised that there hasn’t been a lot of media coverage regarding Dr. King’s assassination. When you talk about a man who was inspired to help all of humanity you also have to talk about policies and the institutional racism,” said Chad Lassiter, president of Black Men at Penn. “When you bring up the murder of Dr. King you have to highlight things that don’t make America feel good about itself. You also have to ask yourself what role the government played in his assassination. The FBI tried to vilify and discredit him through its COINTELPRO operations.”

Officially, King was shot and killed by James Earl Ray at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, one day after his last speech. The motive behind the killing was Ray’s well-known racism, but there has always been speculation alleging that the United States government, fearing an uprising of angry Blacks, was involved.

On Nov. 1, 1975, William C. Sullivan, the former assistant director of the Domestic Intelligence Division of the FBI, testified before a Senate committee on intelligence activities that from 1963 up to his assassination, King was a “target of an intensive campaign by the FBI to neutralize him as an effective civil rights leader.” According to a report released under the Freedom of Information Act, Sullivan said that the war against King was no-holds-barred.

“As a consequence, there was a regeneration of the widespread speculation on the possibility that the Bureau may have had some responsibility in Dr. King’s death and may not have done an impartial and thorough investigation of the assassination,” the report stated.

That speculation for many people hasn’t abated over 45 years. Defense attorney and community activist Michael Coard said that many of the same problems that King spoke out against still exist today.

“People say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I say; the more things change the worse they become. What do I mean by that? The racial discrimination, the poverty and crime are still suffered by the Black community at the same rate as we did 45 years ago. Yes, we have Black doctors and lawyers and mayors and a president, but for many Blacks, things haven’t changed too much.”

Coard added that he also wasn’t surprised by the lack of coverage in the national media.

“There’s always coverage concerning his birthday because that represents change. His death shows something much darker, and one of the reasons we don’t talk about it is because our leaders don’t talk about it,” Coard said. “Now I’m not equating Dr. King to Jesus Christ, but his assassination was a crucifixion. More than any other American in our history, King brought people together, people from all ethnicities and social backgrounds. He stopped a racial civil war that was very close to starting.”

Valerie Ward, president of the Willow Grove NAACP, said that even though African Americans have made significant strides in the nation, too many Blacks are still suffering from poor education, poverty and a lack of opportunities, the very things King gave his life for.

“I was disappointed that there wasn’t very much coverage on his assassination. But if we, I mean Blacks, if we don’t talk about it, no one else will,” Ward said. “In some ways we are much better off, there are opportunities we can take advantage of now that weren’t open to us in 1968. But there is still a lot of quiet racism and we have to be ever cognizant of it. We also have to do all we can to make our youth aware of what Dr. King stood for; we remember it on his birthday and in February during Black History Month. But Dr. King was killed for what he stood for and we can’t and shouldn’t ever forget it.”

“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!”

Those were the last public words spoken by Martin Luther King Jr. He was assassinated 45 years ago on April 4, 1968 and his murder was one of the defining moments in American history and yet, one that seems to have been forgotten or ignored by many African Americans in 2013.

As of Tribune press time there were no statements issued from the White House. Only a handful of national events commemorated the assassination. A notable event in Memphis, Tenn. was spearheaded by the sanitation workers whose strike brought King to Memphis.

“I have to say that I’m not really surprised that there hasn’t been a lot of media coverage regarding Dr. King’s assassination. When you talk about a man who was inspired to help all of humanity you also have to talk about policies and the institutional racism,” said Chad Lassiter, president of Black Men at Penn. “When you bring up the murder of Dr. King you have to highlight things that don’t make America feel good about itself. You also have to ask yourself what role the government played in his assassination. The FBI tried to vilify and discredit him through its COINTELPRO operations.”

Officially, King was shot and killed by James Earl Ray at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, one day after his last speech. The motive behind the killing was Ray’s well-known racism, but there has always been speculation alleging that the United States government, fearing an uprising of angry Blacks, was involved.

On Nov. 1, 1975, William C. Sullivan, the former assistant director of the Domestic Intelligence Division of the FBI, testified before a Senate committee on intelligence activities that from 1963 up to his assassination, King was a “target of an intensive campaign by the FBI to neutralize him as an effective civil rights leader.” According to a report released under the Freedom of Information Act, Sullivan said that the war against King was no-holds-barred.

“As a consequence, there was a regeneration of the widespread speculation on the possibility that the Bureau may have had some responsibility in Dr. King’s death and may not have done an impartial and thorough investigation of the assassination,” the report stated.

That speculation for many people hasn’t abated over 45 years. Defense attorney and community activist Michael Coard said that many of the same problems that King spoke out against still exist today.

“People say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I say; the more things change the worse they become. What do I mean by that? The racial discrimination, the poverty and crime are still suffered by the Black community at the same rate as we did 45 years ago. Yes, we have Black doctors and lawyers and mayors and a president, but for many Blacks, things haven’t changed too much.”

Coard added that he also wasn’t surprised by the lack of coverage in the national media.

“There’s always coverage concerning his birthday because that represents change. His death shows something much darker, and one of the reasons we don’t talk about it is because our leaders don’t talk about it,” Coard said. “Now I’m not equating Dr. King to Jesus Christ, but his assassination was a crucifixion. More than any other American in our history, King brought people together, people from all ethnicities and social backgrounds. He stopped a racial civil war that was very close to starting.”

Valerie Ward, president of the Willow Grove NAACP, said that even though African Americans have made significant strides in the nation, too many Blacks are still suffering from poor education, poverty and a lack of opportunities, the very things King gave his life for.

“I was disappointed that there wasn’t very much coverage on his assassination. But if we, I mean Blacks, if we don’t talk about it, no one else will,” Ward said. “In some ways we are much better off, there are opportunities we can take advantage of now that weren’t open to us in 1968. But there is still a lot of quiet racism and we have to be ever cognizant of it. We also have to do all we can to make our youth aware of what Dr. King stood for; we remember it on his birthday and in February during Black History Month. But Dr. King was killed for what he stood for and we can’t and shouldn’t ever forget it.”

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