Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated in Memphis, TN on April 4, 1968.
His message has endured:
“When you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim, when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television–
Then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.
There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.
Which is why…
The doctrine we preached was a nonviolent doctrine. It was not a doctrine that made our followers yearn for revenge but one that called upon them to champion change. It was not a doctrine that asked an eye for an eye but one that summoned men to seek to open the eyes of blind justice. The Negro turned his back on force not only because he knew he could not win his freedom through physical force but also because he believed that through physical force he could lose his soul.
This showed that we dared to break with the old, ingrained concepts of our society. The eye-for-eye philosophy, the impulse to defend oneself when attacked, has always been held as the highest measure of American manhood. We are a nation that worships the frontier tradition, and our heroes are those who champion justice through violent retaliation against injustice. It is not simple to adopt the credo that moral force has as much strength and virtue as the capacity to return a physical blow; it is not simple to admit that refraining from hitting back requires more will and bravery than the automatic reflexes of defense.
Yet there is something in the American ethos that responds to the strength of moral force.
In measuring the full implications of the civil rights revolution, the greatest contribution may be in the area of world peace. The concept of nonviolence has spread on a mass scale in the United States as an instrument of change. More and more people have begun to conceive of this powerful ethic as a necessary way of life.
Man was born into barbarism when killing his fellow man was a normal condition of existence. And he has now reached the day when violence toward another human being must become as abhorrent as eating another’s flesh.
Nonviolence, the answer to the Negroes’ need, may become the answer to the most desperate need of all humanity.”
Early morning, April four
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky.
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride.