|Martin Luther King, Jr., “I’ve been to the mountaintop,” |
April 3, 1968 | YouTube screen grab
assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. at 6:00 pm, April 4, on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.
King gave a very emotional final speech the night before to Memphis civil rights and sanitation workers and his preacher colleagues, which spoke of his premonition that death was coming.
“I don’t know what will happen now; we’ve got some difficult days ahead…but it really doesn’t matter to me now.”
“King paused. ‘Because I’ve been to the mountaintop,’ he declared in a trembling voice. Cheers and applause erupted. Some people jerked involuntarily to their feet, and others rose slowly like a choir. ‘And I don’t mind,’ he said, trailing off beneath the second and third waves of response. ‘Like anybody I would like to live – a long life – longevity has its place.’ The whole building suddenly hushed, which let sounds of thunder and rain fall from the roof. ‘But I’m not concerned about that now,’ said King. ‘I just want God’s will.’ There was a subdued call of ‘Yes!’ in the crowd. ‘And he’s allowed me to go to the mountain,’ King cried, building intensity. ‘And I’ve looked over. And I have s-e-e-e-e-e-n the promised land.’”
“King’s eyes were brimming now and a trace of a smile crossed his face. ‘And I may not get there with you,’ he shouted, ‘but I want you to know tonight, [“Yes!”] that as a people we will get to the promised land!’ By now the crowd was clapping and crying and preachers were closing in behind him. ‘So I am happy tonight!’ King exclaimed, rushing into his close. ‘I’m not worried about anything! I’m not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!’ He broke off and ‘stumbled sideways into a hug from Abernathy,’ writes Branch. ‘The preachers helped him to a chair, some crying, and tumult washed through’ the Temple.”
|Lorraine Motel, April 4, 1968 | afrikanblackcoalition.org|
April 7 was declared a day of national mourning.
Forty-three years later, President Barack Obama dedicated a four-acre park and monument on the National Mall to King.