The Death of a King

Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethic of love to the centre of our lives.
Dr. King

Image of Martin Luther King on the floor with people around him on a balcony - pointing to where the gunman shot him.
Civil rights leader Andrew Young (L) and others standing on the balcony of Lorraine Motel. MLK has been shot by their feet and they are pointing to where the shots came from Image: Time Magazine

On April 4th, 1968, at 6.05pm, MLK was shot dead by James Earl Ray, on a balcony of the Lorraine Motel, in Memphis.

Image of James Earl Ray the man who murdered Dr. King
Image of James Earl Rey, the man who murdered Dr. King. Image:

MLK travelled to Memphis to support the strike of more than 1,300 city sanitation workers. The strike was sparked by the death of Robert Walker and Echol Cole, who were crushed by their faulty garbage truck. The strikes brought national focus to the terrible working conditions and low wages of black sanitation workers.

Men holding up posters saying I am a man.
1,300 Memphis sanitation workers go on strike to protest abysmal wages and working conditions after two workers were crushed to death by a faulty truck. Image: Wayne State University Images

MLK’s murder came a day after his famous “Mountain Top” speech, where he spoke of his own mortality…

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.
Dr. King

The assassination of MLK triggered riots in more than 100 cities across the country, killing more than 35 people. On April 8, his widow, Coretta Scott King, joined 42,000 people on a silent march through Memphis. Now 50 years on how close are we to the promise land?

King’s promised land

Grenfell Tower. Image: BBC

Grenfell Tower. Image: BBC

King spoke of our responsibility as people, to create a world grounded in economic, social, political and racial justice. While there has been a noticeable shift in public attitudes towards race – white privilege rules our institutions and power over society.

Still today, people of colour face huge dangers in public spaces. Black poverty across the globe, black and brown incarnation and police brutality still dominate our societies. In the UK, we only have to look at our horrific immigration detention centres, the murdering of children on our streets and the horror of Grenfell Tower to know how much is yet to be done. 50 years on from the death of MLK and it is sobering how far off we are from his promised land.

King was building power: so are we

Image of Dr. King grand-daughter speaking at March for our lives.
Yolanda Renee, Dr King’s granddaughter speaking out to the crowds at the March for Lives. Image Cosmopolitan

I have a dream that enough is enough. And that this should be a gun-free world, period.
Yolanda Renee

MLK was about building power and pushing the black struggle into the streets and sitting rooms of white privilege. Due to his work, the efforts of those he worked with and the brave leaders who have followed – we have seen growth in black and brown political representation across oceans and especially in the election of Barack Obama.

While there is still so much injustice, it is important to remember his legacy is evident today. There is a new generation protesting many of the same issues MLK faced: inequality, police brutality and poverty. They – we are not letting up. We are seeing the largest anti-gun-violence mobilization in the States since he was murdered. In the UK, we are seeing young people in huge numbers participating in civic action like never before. A movement is growing across the globe. There are so many moments to lift up and recognise and even more to hope for.

We must use time creatively, and forever realise that the time is always ripe to do right.
Dr. King

How Dr King wants to be remembered

I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others… I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.
Dr. King

Just a day before MLK was murdered he spoke of his own death, during his famous mountaintop speech, at a small church in Memphis. He spoke about his legacy, the promised land and how he would like to be remembered by the world. It is surreal that just the next day he would be murdered. Here is MLK’s final speech to remember him as he would like us to.


  1. Clare Wightman

    A wonderful blog. Thank you.


What are your thoughts?

We would like to hear from you. Leave a comment to start a discussion.

Please fill out this field correctly.

Please fill out this field correctly.

* required fields.

Your email will not be published. By commenting on this website you confirm that you have read and agree to our privacy policy.