This post is one of a series this week in anticipation of the 4th April, the 40th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jnr. This posting offers a reflection on his life and death.
In March of 1968 King responded to the rubbish workers in Memphis to help them in their striking against unfair labour practices. That night Martin was feeling depressed. He felt like a failure. Full of a cold he went along to a large church to be the speaker and on his last night he gave one of the greatest speeches of his life.
Nobody knew that this would be the last address he ever gave and here are some of his famous last words:
“It really doesn’t matter what happens to me. I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, …the pilot said over the public address system, ‘We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked, and to be sure that nothing would be wrong with the plane, we had to check out everything carefully. And we’ve had the plane protected and guarded all night.’”
“And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?”
“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been up the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. 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’s allowed me to go up the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve 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. And I’m 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.”
Source: James M. Washington, ed. I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches That Changed the World/ Martin Luther King, 202-203.
Dr. Geoff Pound
Image: “But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”