Memphis Tennessee, Newspaper.
Memphis, Tennessee. 37501
300 1st Avenue
Dear Memphis Newspaper,
April 4, 1968 started out like any other day. I woke up and fixed my voluminous afro, I got my coffee and a bagel then sat down to watch the news. They were talking about Martin Luther King Junior’s speech that he gave yesterday and the bomb threats that his plane recieved earlier in the day.
As a colored human rights activist I was rather worried because Mr.King was mine and many others leader, but at the time I really tried not to think anything of it. I was a lot more focused on the beautiful speech he gave the night before. The purpose of the speech was to focus on the Memphis sanitation strike which my husband was a part of. King called for unity in our nation and that was exactly what we needed.
Two lines from King’s speech that really stuck out to me were both near the middle of his speech. The first one was “Now, what does all of this mean in this great period of history? It means that we’ve got to stay together. We’ve got to stay together and maintain unity.” The second one that really meant a lot to me was, “You may not be on strike. But either we go up together or we go down together.” These really show that King was all about unity and that’s the main reason I liked him so much.
These quotes remind me of his ‘I have a dream speech’, which I wasn’t able to go watch but I have heard it several times. It reminds me of a part in the very beginning of his speech where he says, “Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of the racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.”
Martin Luther King Junior, was to say the least, my hero. That day on April 4, 1968 I knew he was in Memphis. The Lorraine motel, where he was staying, was actually pretty close to my apartment building. I planned on going down there later on that day to talk to Mr. King and thank him for everything has done for us.
Later that night at around 5:30 I decided to take a walk and maybe I’d get the chance to see him. I walked around for awhile and went to the grocery store first. At around 5:55 I got to the Lorraine motel. I knew Mr. King was a really nice man but for some reason I was really scared to go talk to him. I was waiting outside pacing like a crazy person and I’m sure every white person that walked by me wanted me put away. Thankfully after 5 minutes of pacing Mr. King came out of his room. He was standing on the balcony and I was about to go talk to him but in the matter of a second he fell.
Mr. King fell from the second floor balcony to the ground. I had no idea what just happened. Why did he just fall? What in the world was going on? Everyone around me turned around pointing to some house window. I didn’t know why they were doing that at the time, but my initial reaction was to rush over to him and see if he was okay.
When I got to Mr. King I saw blood gushing around his face. He was shot. How could anyone do this to such an amazing man?
“Help! Help,” I yelled to anyone who would listen to me.
Everyone was shocked and no one came to help me.
“Someone call the police! Call an ambulance,” I yelled over and over again but still no one came to help me.
I realized no one was going to help and I had to do this all on my own. I ran to the nearest payphone which happened to be for only white people. At any other time I would have not even thought of touching that phone but in that moment everything was a blur.
I somehow managed to call an ambulance and someone was on their way to help Mr. King. I wasn’t aloud to ride with him in the ambulance because I wasn’t family or even a friend. In that moment I honestly had no idea what to do so I just walked home. The whole way home I started to panic. What was going to happen to this country without a leader like him? I got home and had nothing else to do but worry and go to sleep.
When I woke up the next day everything seemed a little hazy. I went downstairs and got a newspaper from the local newspaper stand and everything flooded back. The headline on page one was “DR. KING IS SLAIN BY SNIPER.” Apparently he was pronounced dead at 7:05 pm April 4, 1968.
This was the biggest news I’ve ever gotten. I had no idea how to cope with such a terrible loss. In the following days there were tons of riots all over the country. I didn't understand this because people were going strictly against everything King stood for. I felt like the whole world would fall apart without this man. But clearly it hasn’t yet.