The Patriot Post® · Who Killed MLK's Dream?
“Every measure of prudence, therefore, ought to be assumed for the eventual total extirpation of slavery from the United States. … I have, throughout my whole life, held the practice of slavery in … abhorrence.” —John Adams (1819)
On this day 50 years ago, April 4, 1968, 39-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in Memphis, Tennessee, by a racist sociopath from Alton, Illinois, named James Earl Ray.
The night before his death, King preached at the Mason Temple, headquarters of the Church of God in Christ. Having been warned of threats against him, he prophetically declared:
“I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And 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. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
Dr. Gary S. Smith, emeritus chairman of Grove City College’s history department, observed that King’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” sermon “ranks with John Winthrop’s ‘A Model of Christian Charity’ and Jonathan Edwards’ ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God’ as among America’s most famous.”
King’s pastoral influence in that era was rivaled only by his friend Billy Graham.
That fateful day in 1968 was a Thursday, and King was killed around 6:00 in the evening. On Friday, Dr. King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, and three of her children, joined by faith leaders and thousands of citizens, marched in Memphis to support King’s work.
I was an 11-year-old kid in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and I recall that at noon on that Friday, Chattanooga’s mayor called for a memorial service at a noted local venue, led by black and white community leaders and attended by 1,500 citizens. There was a dusk-to-dawn curfew enacted several days after King’s assassination, because a few hundred black high school students congregated to express their frustration. I recall the distinct quiet during those curfew nights — unlike many other large cities, there was no violence and the curfew was lifted.
Riots elsewhere were an affront to King’s insistence on nonviolent protest, and they resulted in 40 deaths and significant property damage. More than 100,000 soldiers and guardsmen were called up to support police and firefighters.
In 1968, I had no real sense of abject racism or school segregation. There was only one elementary school in our suburban community, and we had black classmates from kindergarten forward. There were degrees of inequality, but little overt racial tension in our town, which MLK had referenced in his famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington: “Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.” (He had never been to our small town but had visited Chattanooga in 1960.)
In fact, though there were plenty of racist haters, both white and black, in the South, I would not fully experience ethnic division and racial hatred firsthand until the mid-1970s as a high-school student in Connecticut. On a few occasions while defending black friends, we rumbled with racist “greasers” (the North’s version of “rednecks”) in pool halls and bowling alleys. But it was my many weekend trips to Boston and New York where I first experienced widespread systemic hatred.
Everybody hated everybody. The Italians hated the blacks hated the Irish hated the Jews hated … ad nauseam. Here, there was overt ethnic and racial division the likes of which I had never experienced in the South. Though the most noted racial tensions in the ‘60s had been in the “Deep South,” which has since been stereotyped, I found out that ignorance and hatred were not geographically specific.
It was only when I returned to the South, after graduating from a state police academy and completing my undergraduate degree, that in a law-enforcement capacity I was sent to “observe” a few of the KKK events still occurring — events that also defied geographic stereotypes. At the first major Klan event I witnessed in Georgia as part of a federal task force in 1982, the two ranking Klansmen were both from the Northeast.
But Martin King understood racism in the North.
In 1966, he went to what would later become Barack Obama’s hometown, Chicago, which was then, as it is now, a violent city. King went there in an effort to cool the hotbed of racial hatred that was emerging in that city, mostly fomented by the Democrat power brokers under then-Mayor Richard Daley.
After his visit, King observed, “I’ve been to Mississippi and Alabama and I can tell you that the hatred and hostility in Chicago are really deeper than in Alabama and Mississippi.” No small irony that MLK would be murdered by an Illinois racist.
Forty years later, Obama, a neophyte “community organizer” from that same racist hotbed, a student of Marxist mentors and a disciple of afrocentric hatred indoctrinated by his “pastor,” Jeremiah Wright, was raised up by the Democrat Party to become president.
In the five decades since King’s death, the Party of Obama has institutionalized racial division as a central strategy of its political platform — with the help of an opportunistic King lieutenant, Jesse Jackson, and other poverty pimps like Al Sharpton, all of whom have betrayed King’s “dream.”
In King’s most famous speech, to more than 250,000 people at the National Mall in Washington, DC, he declared, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ … I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. … And if America is to be a great nation this must become true.”
But the Democrat Party of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize recipient’s era has devolved into a political machine fueled by hate and division — one that has turned the wisdom of this iconic sovereign’s most quoted remark upside down. It’s as if King had said, “I have a dream that my children will be judged by the color of their skin, not the content of their character.”
Today’s Democrat leaders are consummate race-bait hustlers who have defiled King’s legacy — and that of Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglas. They’re intent on keeping poor blacks enslaved on modern day urban poverty plantations, the effluent of the so-called “Great Society.” For Democrats, black lives matter only inasmuch as they are a dependent voting bloc.
But there are also bold black Americans who have rejected the Left’s statism and institutional victimhood, and they are thus subject to the condemnation of many on the Left. One of the most outspoken detractors of the Left’s orthodoxy is MLK’s niece, Alveda King. She was 17 at the time of her uncle’s assassination, and she has offered some insights on the anniversary of his death.
She recalls a conversation with her father on that day in which she said, “I hate white people, they killed Uncle M.L.”
He replied, “No, white people didn’t kill my brother; white people didn’t kill your uncle. White people march with us, pray with us, go to jail with us, live with us, die with us. No, no, the devil did this. You have to forgive; you have to forgive.”
Such forgiveness is anathema to most of today’s black leaders.
Alveda added, “Acts 17:26 says, ‘Of one blood God made all people, to live together on the face of the earth.’ So we can be brothers and sisters because we are one blood; we are the human race. And I believe if my uncle were here today, he’d like for us to consider ourselves as human beings, not different races. One race, colorblind.”
We should all remember that Liberty is colorblind.
In 1967, King, who began as a preacher at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, declared, “Before I was a civil rights leader, I was a preacher of the Gospel. This was my first calling [and] remains my greatest commitment. [All] I do in civil rights I do because I consider it a part of my ministry.”
And it is in that context that he is best remembered.
Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
Pro Deo et Libertate — 1776