Martin Luther King Jr. Funeral, April 1968

Memorial in Memphis, Tn. – click for complete collection

Funeral in Atlanta – click for complete collection

Martin Luther King, Jr. Funeral, April 1968

Martin Luther King, Jr. went to Memphis in April 1968 to speak in support of a strike by black sanitation workers who were seeking pay and working conditions equal to those of whites. On April 3rd he gave what was to be the last speech of his life, in which he prophetically declared, “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life, longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And he has allowed me to  go up the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I have seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land. I’m so happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!” At 6:01PM on the following day, April 4th, King was shot by James Earl Ray while standing on the balcony outside his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. He was 39 years old

A march in honor of King and the sanitation workers’ strike was held in Memphis on April 8th. An estimated 42,000 people participated. In Atlanta, King’s body was placed on public view for 48 hours in the Sisters Chapel at Spelman College, where approximately 1,200 people per hour passed by to see it. On April 9th a private memorial was held at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King was co-pastor with his father, Martin Luther King, Sr. The memorial was followed by a procession down Auburn Avenue through downtown Atlanta to Morehouse College. 50,000 people participated in the 4-mile  procession. At Morehouse, King was eulogized by Dr. Benjamin Mays, who had delivered the benediction at the March on Washington, where King had delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Among the dignitaries present at the ceremony were Vice President Hubert Humphrey, for- mer Vice President Richard Nixon, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. King was then laid to rest at South View Cemetery. In 1977, King’s remains were moved to a site between the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Non-Violent Social Change and the Ebenezer Baptist Church, which is now part of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. His wife, Coretta Scott King, was buried next to him upon her death in 2006.

– text from the 2014 exhibition THE MOVEMENT curated by Peter Boswell