Sunday, April 5, 2009
April 4, 1968
Forty one years ago yesterday the world lost one of its great voices to a racist's bullet. On April 4, 1968 James Earl Ray tried to silence Martin Luther King with a sniper rifle while the civil rights leader stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis Tennessee.
Ray may have succeeded in taking King's life, but he failed miserably at silencing his voice. It lived on in others who took up the call for racial equality. Now Martin Luther King's message is taught to school children with the same reverence given to the Emancipation Proclamation.
I wonder how Dr. King would feel about the America we live in now. Surely he would be immensely proud that we have evolved to the point of electing a black president. Still, I wonder how he would view the massive wealth gap between whites and blacks. I wonder how much of his dream he would regard as fulfilled.
Here is a clip of the last speech King ever gave - the night before he died. Many have written about how prophetic it was, and it does seem to foretell the events of the next day. I recently saw a documentary in which people close to King said it was a speech he delivered often, which cuts down its prophetic quality a bit. Nonetheless, it is remarkable how much Dr. King was willing to place himself in danger's way in the fight for justice.