Martin Luther King, Jr. January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968

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by Geoffrey Redick, producer

NOTE: This blog entry and this documentary are from April 2008, the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination. We in the media like to mark anniversaries of events, both tragic and triumphant. It’s now been 47 years since King’s death. I’ve always been interested in the people involved in those events whose names aren’t writ large in American history. What are their backstories? How did they get involved? How did the event change their lives?

What Bob does best is conversation. Today, you’ll hear conversations with three Memphis natives. They’ll talk about their involvement with Dr. King and the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike of 1968. And maybe more importantly, you’ll hear what they did after Dr. King’s death, how an event that might have extinguished an important nonviolent movement for social justice instead strengthened their resolve. You’ll hear how they carried on. It’s worth listening to these folks, 40 years out from Dr. King’s death, when our “official” racism is waning but our hearts and minds need more work. There’s a lot of fear and anger bubbling just beneath the surface – no matter what color your skin is.

You’ll also hear some tape of news reports from 1968. That was provided to us by the production team at American Radio Works. They make excellent radio documentaries for American Public Media, and one of their latest is called King’s Last March. You can find it here. It’s about the last year of Dr. King’s life, when his focus shifted from racial equality to economic and social issues. It’s a good look at a part of Dr. King’s legacy that’s often forgotten. 

I’d like to thank Maxine Smith, Frank McRae, and Benjamin Hooks for talking with us. And I’d like to thank Tom Jones, Ed Frank, and Stephen Smith for their help.

Geoffrey Redick

Listen to Dr. King’s last speech.