CNN’s Black In America series looks at assassination; also King’s radical push for new America

Most of us realize, as his grave site would attest, that Dr. Martin Luther King died 40 years ago at the hands of an assassin’s bullet.  Yet a review of historical accounts may lead one to believe that Dr. King died in 1963.

Rare do we see much about the life Dr. King lead between the March on Washington and his work on the sanitation strike in Memphis.  Even less do we hear about his planned Poor Peoples’ Campaign and his opposition to the Vietnam War.

John Blake writes an article for titled King’s final crusade: The radical push for a new America.   Here are some thoughts from Blake’s article:

  • Most Americans think of King as the “I Have a Dream” preacher at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. But the man who made his final trip to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968 had become radical, scholars and activists say. King was gambling his legacy on a final crusade that was so revolutionary, it alarmed many of his closest advisers.
  • King called his crusade the Poor People’s Campaign. He planned to march on Washington with a multiracial army of poor people who would build shantytowns at the Lincoln Memorial — and paralyze the nation’s capital if they had to.
  • “It didn’t cost the nation one penny to integrate lunch counters … but now we are dealing with issues that cannot be solved without the nation spending billions of dollars and undergoing a radical redistribution of economic power,” King said during a trip to Mississippi in February 1968.
  • King had also lost the ear of his most important ally, President Lyndon Johnson. On April 4, 1967, exactly a year before he was assassinated, King delivered a highly publicized speech against the Vietnam War.

    “Johnson was outraged,” Wilkins said. “He turned sour toward King and the movement. He felt that Martin had rejected him.”

  • King became depressed at times, Branch said. One night, King — alone with a whiskey — awakened friends in adjoining hotel rooms with his shouting: “I don’t want to do this anymore! I want to go back to my little church!”

    “The shameful truth is that very few people were paying attention to him,” Branch said.

In that light, on Thursday, CNN will air the introduction to a four month series titled Black in America.  The series begins with Eyewitness to Murder: The King Assassination.  It will be hosted by CNN anchor and special correspondent Soledad O’Brien.  Eyewitness to Murder airs Thursday April 3 at 8:00 p.m. Central Time.  Click here to learn more about the series and to view a trailer to ‘Eyewitness.’

Check back sometime before Thursday night, I hope to have something special to share with you before the series airs.

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