Charlotte Talks: Assessing MLK, 50 Years After Assassination

Apr 4, 2018

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Though he was among the most-admired Americans of the 20th Century, Martin Luther King, Jr., was an unpopular figure in the final years of his life.
Credit Flickr / Henk Sijgers

On the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, a look at where his activism was headed, and at his legacy.

On April 4, 1968, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., was supposed to be in North Carolina as part of a major voter registration push for African Americans. Instead, King was called back to Memphis, where sanitation workers were on strike for a living wage.

Within hours of his return, King was cut down by an assassin, setting off riots in dozens of cities across the country, including Raleigh. Charlotte did not see the same violence, but black leaders warned the city’s establishment of “long hot summers” ahead unless race relations were improved.

But the MLK the nation honors each January is not the same person who was cut down in Memphis, says civil rights historian Wornie Reed, who marched with King in the 60s. A Gallup poll two years before his death found widespread disapproval of King, and former allies became foes as King began his Poor People’s Campaign.

We look at where King’s activism was headed before he met an assassin’s bullet, and what has become of his efforts in the fifty years since.

GUESTS

Wornie Reed, director of Virginia Tech's Race and Social Policy Center (@worniereed)

J. Kameron Carter, associate professor of theology, English and African studies, Duke University Divinity School (@jkameroncarter)

Dan Morrill, consulting director, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Landmarks Commission