The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., is seen in this undated file photo. Martin Luther King Jr., leader in the African-American civil rights movement was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis. (AP Photo)
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last speech the evening before his assassination was especially resonant, considering the events that followed. Popularly known as the “I’ve Been To The Mountaintop” speech, King delivered the words at the Church Of God In Christ headquarters, Mason Temple, in Memphis, Tenn., on this day in 1968.
Full of prophetic themes and such, King was addressing the Memphis Sanitation Strike and was galvanizing workers in a call for unity and nonviolent protests. One of the more chilling moments of the speech is the foretelling of his death, which some experts feel was the speech’s most poignant moments.
If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions. Maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn’t committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for rights. And so just as I said, we aren’t going to let dogs or water hoses turn us around. We aren’t going to let any injunction turn us around.
The issue is injustice. The issue is the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants, who happen to be sanitation workers. Now, we’ve got to keep attention on that. That’s always the problem with a little violence. You know what happened the other day, and the press dealt only with the window-breaking. I read the articles. They very seldom got around to mentioning the fact that one thousand, three hundred sanitation workers are on strike, and that Memphis is not being fair to them.
And then I got to Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers? … Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t really matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. 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.
Dr. King would be assassinated the very next day at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis at the age of 39.