Monday, April 04, 2005

April 4, 1968

Martin Luther King, Jr. had returned to Memphis determined to lead a non-violent protest in support of striking sanitation workers. He arrived back in Memphis on April 3rd. That night at Mason Temple King gave his famous "Mountaintop" speech. He was prophetic in many ways. Not just about his own demise but about some of the problems facing the poor and oppressed minorities around the world, and the consequences of inaction:

[That is where we are today. And also in the human rights revolution, if something isn't done, and in a hurry, to bring the colored peoples of the world out of their long years of poverty, their long years of hurt and neglect, the whole world is doomed. Now, I'm just happy that God has allowed me to live in this period, to see what is unfolding. And I'm happy that He's allowed me to be in Memphis.]

The most famous part, and I suppose my favorite part still is the last paragraph:

[Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. 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.]

Of course the next day, at the Lorraine Motel, not far from where I'm writing this, everyone knows what happened. The Lorraine is now the National Civil Rights Museum, and if you're ever in town you should see it. The last stop on the museum tour is his actual hotel room, recreated as it was that spring day in 1968. It is very moving place. You just stand there, right next to the last door he ever walked out of. Second floor balcony.

To read the entire speech, go to: this page.


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