On April 4, 1968 at 6:01 p.m. CT, a shot was fired that would reverberate throughout the world. It was the shot that killed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN. King, a clergyman, civil rights activist and proponent of non-violence, had died a violent death.
Despite their success at silencing King, the shot didn’t silence the movement, and only strengthened his legacy, as indicated in part by the growing interest in the observance of the 50th anniversary of his death. For the past year, organizations and individuals across the country have been honoring King’s legacy with programming, research, symposiums, conferences, even new books and documentaries, all culminating with a crowded calendar of events planned around the April 4th anniversary.
The focus of the planned recognition ceremonies are in Memphis, where King died and in Atlanta, where he was born and the home of The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.
Although there has been a national holiday as a celebration of King’s birthday since 1983, the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of his death appears to be about more than the typical “I Have a Dream,” and “We’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” that the birthday celebrations have turned into. Somehow this half century recognition has more depth and purpose. With the theme, “Where Do We Go From Here?,” the national recognition, “MLK50,” is looking back at the movement and what it accomplished, but also forward to the work that still needs to be done and how it can best be addressed.
Although April 4 will be challenging for the King family and for many others around the world, Dr. Bernice A. King, CEO of The King Center and MLK’s daughter, stressed, “Our family encourages you to not be angered by my father’s death; be bolstered by his teachings and awakened by his work.”
That awakening is at the core of most of the books, films, symposiums, collaborations, and simple gatherings associated with MLK50.