Dr. Martin Luther King’s

Topics: Martin Luther King, Jr., African American, Morehouse College Pages: 6 (1620 words) Published: December 4, 2012
Dr. Martin Luther King’s Funeral and Assassination

Word spread like wildfire when the news of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination hit the public. As the leading civil rights activist in the 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. preached words of peace and understanding among races. A well known name throughout the North and South, King gained extreme popularity within the African American community. When Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated a wave of sorrow spread across the nation. With rage, sadness, and hopelessness in the public eye, clearly the assassination hurt more than just one man, it hurt a nation.

A single shot killed 39-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968. At the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, a sniper from about “50-100 yards away,” shot and struck Dr. King’s neck, while instantaneously killing him (“Martin Luther King Slain” 139). From the crime scene, F.B.I. investigators traced a “white Mustang automobile,” and an “‘unusually large’ amount of physical evidence” (Waldron 1). With fingerprints, the actual rifle, and eyewitnesses as definite pieces of evidence, F.B.I. agents concluded that a Caucasian man executed the assassination and that he would be very easily caught (Waldron 1). Eyewitness testimony even stated that the “saw a white man [ran] from the house immediately after the shooting” (“Martin Luther King Slain” 140). As a shocking and horrific event, the assassination of Dr. King proved to test the nation’s character.

Shortly after the news of Martin Luther King’s assassination spread, “sporadic violence erupted in Harlem and Brooklyn’s . . . section . . . in two predominantly Negro communities” (Johnson 1). With a total of twelve men arrested and violence breaking out all around the section, “police reinforcements, including elements of the riot-trained Tactical Patrol Force, were rushed into both communities” (Johnson 1). Screaming “Brothers, Unite!” in the crowd, many African Americans chaotically trashed the community to physically represent their sadness and anger regarding the assassination (Johnson 2).

Five days after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., a funeral in Atlanta, Georgia preceded (“Abernathy” 33). Dr. King’s funeral spearheaded with the rites and services, and then continued with a march from “the streets of downtown Atlanta to the campus of Morehouse College” (“Abernathy” 33). With “740 city policemen and 100 firemen [guarding] the route of the march, and several thousand National Guardsmen” the march, surprisingly, ended peacefully and safely (“Abernathy” 33). As an influential leader lost, “plans to handle crowds of 50,000 or more people were being hurriedly pulled together” (Ripley, “50,000" 1). The public funeral, at Morehouse College, hosted thousands of people from all over the nation. Standing along side the King family, these thousands of people mourned with the family in remembrance.

After the funeral, analysts talked frequently of the estimated number of people in attendance at the funeral. The estimated range “varied from 20,000 to 60,000" people (Ripley, “50,000" 1). With a 40,000 person gap, it is interesting to note the large estimate difference. How is it possible to obtain such a huge discrepancy? With definite differences in opinion, actual visual experience, and calculations, this 40,000 person difference proved to represent a huge interruption in the actual number of people present.

As a result of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and funeral, the nation also felt large effects of his death. On the day of his funeral, “private businesses and state and city governments gave their employees partial or total holidays” (“Nation” 35). In addition to sporting events being cancelled, certain public schools and the New York Stock Exchange all closed to commemorate Dr. King. This was the first time that “[t]he New York Stock Exchange [closed] . . . in honor of a private citizen” (“Nation” 35). All of the...

Cited: “Abernathy Leads Rites Tomorrow: To Conduct 2 Services for Dr. King in Atlanta.” New York Times 8 Apr. 1968: 33. ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times. Library Gateway, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. 11 Apr. 2004
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Gould, Jack. “Methods of Covering King Slaying Vary Widely.” New York Times 6 Apr. 1968: 79. ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times. Library Gateway, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. 11 Apr. 2004
Gould, Jack
Lukas, Anthony. “Atlanta Is Peaceful During the Funeral.” New York Times 10 Apr. 1968: 1-2. ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times. Library Gateway, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. 11 Apr. 2004
“Martin Luther King Slain.” Facts on File 139-142.
Martin Luther King Jr.. New York: Praeger, 1989.
“Nation To Pause To Honor Dr. King: Schools, Banks, Stores, and Plants Closing Today.” New York Times 9 Apr. 1968: 35. ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times.
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Posner, Gerald L.. Killing the Dream: James Earl Ray and the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.. New York: Random House, 1998.
Ripley, Anthony. “50,000 Expected for Funeral of Dr. King in Atlanta Today.” New York Times 9 Apr. 1968: 1-2. ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times. Library Gateway, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. 11 Apr. 2004
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Waldron, Martin. “Clark Is Sure Killer Will Soon Be Seized.” New York Times 6 Apr. 1968: 1-2. ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times. Library Gateway, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. 11 Apr. 2004
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