April 4th, 1968

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Assassinated

Thirteen hundred African American sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee, went on strike on February 12, 1968, to protest low pay and poor treatment. When city leaders largely ignored the strike and refused to negotiate, the workers sought assistance from civil rights leaders, including Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King enthusiastically agreed to help and delivered a speech to more than 15,000 people in Memphis on March 18, 1968. Dr. King also planned and organized a march to take place ten days later. Against his wishes, the planned march turned violent and at least one protestor was killed as police forcibly dispersed the marchers. Dr. King planned a second march to take place on April 8.

On April 3, 1968, Dr. King braved a bomb threat on his scheduled flight and traveled to Memphis. He gave a short speech reflecting on his own mortality before retiring to the Lorraine Motel. The next evening, Dr. King was shot as he stepped out onto the motel balcony and rushed to nearby St. Joseph's hospital. At 7:05 p.m. on April 4, 1968, 39-year-old Dr. King was pronounced dead, leaving a nation in shock and sparking riots in more than a hundred cities across the country. James Earl Ray, a white man, was later convicted of the murder.