Remembering MLK

People in Richmond and across the nation pause to reflect on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the 50th anniversary of his death

Free Press staff, wire reports | 4/6/2018, 7:15 a.m.
On the day Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed 50 years ago, tens of thousands of people gathered at ...

In Washington, thousands joined a silent march that started at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Some marchers placed their hands on the 30-foot memorial’s base and looked up at Dr. King.

Participants traveled from as far as Oklahoma to attend, some wearing green “Act to End Racism” shirts and singing spirituals as they walked.

Flowers and a signed note were left at the base of the statue, which looks across the waters of the tidal basin to the memorial of Thomas Jefferson, the slave-owning third U.S. president.

Addressed to Dr. King, a handwritten note stated: “Your message of non-violence still resonates with many and your message of Human Rights for all people is still being heard today. Rest in Peace!”

One marcher, Ron Meredith, a 38-year-old African-American who works as a financial analyst in the city, said, “I feel an immense amount of pride and love for the man. It makes me cry when I think what they took from us. His sacrifice was Christ-like.”

If Dr. King were alive today, added Mr. Meredith, “he’d be kneeling with Kaepernick,” a reference to the football player who started the take-a-knee action during the playing of the national anthem to protest racial injustice.

Faith leaders from various denominations spoke at the Washington rally on the National Mall.

“Joining my Christian sisters to take a pledge to work against racism and to make America a place where everyone is respected and is given the equal opportunity!” Rajwant Singh, a speaker at the rally, said in a tweet.

President Trump, in a video posted on Twitter, also recognized Dr. King’s legacy.

“We rededicate ourselves to a glorious future where every American, from every walk of life, can live free from fear, liberated from hatred, and uplifted by boundless love for their fellow citizens,” the president said in the video. “I ask every citizen to join me in remembering this great American hero and to carry on his legacy of justice, equality and freedom.”

The biggest events were in Memphis.

A wreath-laying ceremony was held on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, which is now part of the National Civil Rights Museum. Dr. King was shot as he stood on the hotel balcony.

At 6:01 p.m. — the exact moment when Dr. King was shot — a bronze church bell perched on a scaffold above the motel tolled 39 times — one for each year of Dr. King’s life. Much like when the news of Dr. King’s death spread around the world 50 years ago, bells rang out Wednesday at 6:03 p.m. in downtown Memphis, at 6:05 p.m. in Washington, at 6:07 p.m. in Vatican City.

On Tuesday evening, thousands packed the pews of Mason Temple in Memphis where Dr. King delivered his last speech from the pulpit the night before he was killed.

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life — longevity has its place,” Dr. King said that night. “But I’m not concerned about that now… 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.”

Former Ambassador Andrew Young, a civil rights leader and former Atlanta mayor who was on the balcony with Dr. King when the fatal shot rang out, spoke of Dr. King’s enduring legacy.

“Africans say, ‘You ain’t dead ‘til the people stop calling your name,’ ” Mr. Young said. “That bullet only released his spirit and it released his spirit all over the world.”