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By 1968, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was the face of the Civil Rights Movement in America. For more than a decade and a half, King and his followers had put their lives on the line to end segregation in America, often facing physical violence. King himself had narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in 1958 and many of his close associates paid the ultimate price in the name of Civil Rights. Despite the violence, King’s non-violence approach had slowly but steadily led to destruction of Jim Crow laws across the South. However, as 1968 dawned, King began facing opposition from younger African-Americans who pushed for a more confrontational approach to the fight for Civil Rights. Still, King remained as the recognized leader of the Movement.
In April of 1968, King was invited to Memphis, Tennessee to show support for a city-wide sanitation strike. On the night of April 3, 1968, King spoke to the strikers gathered in the Mason Temple Church. In his speech, King seemed to foreshadow his own future when he spoke these words: “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.” Less than 24 hours later he would be murdered.
This incredibly poignant Type 1 press photo captures King and three of his associates shortly before his April 3 speech. In this image, King is standing in almost the exact same spot where he would be shot and killed just one day later. In the photo, King stands on his hotel balcony alongside Jesse Jackson, Rev. Ralph Abernathy and Minister Hosea Williams as all four gaze towards to ground below. The jovial expression on their faces exhibits the calm before the storm that would be unleased less than 24 hours after the photo was taken. King’s murder by James Earl Ray touched off violent riots in more than 100 American cities. At the same time, King’s death set in motion the quick passage of the several key pieces of legislation such as the Fair Housing Act that augmented the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This and the ensuing successful fight for an end to racial discrimination demonstrated that Martin Luther King, Jr’s dream did not end with his murder in Memphis in 1968.
This 9” x 7” image caption states…
Dr. King on the balcony where he was shot-
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. stands on the balcony appoximately the spot where he was shot by an assassin. This picture was made Wednesday, April 3, the day before the shooting, shortly after King arrived in Memph, Tenn. Standing next to King, tieless, is Jesse Jackson, an associate, to whom King was talking the instant he was shot. At the right is Rev. Ralph Abernathy. Man at left is not identified.
-1968-
Due to the fact he is standing where one of the most tragic events unfolded in American history, this image has been used many times over the last 50 plus years to document what would end up being the last 24 hours of his life. There have been books, articles, and many publications to show this, however, this is a Type 1 image. Below are some links that show the image. There are several pencil notations, including a correction to the original caption which identifies Hosea Williams as the man initially recorded as “not identified.” The word “Death” is also noted. The front of the image shows overall toning and edge wear from age with a couple of small marks none of which takes away from the historical significance of this piece of Civil Rights history. The photo presents in overall very good to excellent condition –The photo has been encapsulated and graded Type 1 by PSA.

For more references on this historically important photograph please visit these resources:

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/they-killed-martin-mlks-assassination-is-seared-into-seattle-memories/

 

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/mar/31/jesse-jackson-martin-luther-king-assassination

 

https://www.npr.org/2018/04/04/598826351/despite-swirl-of-conspiracy-theories-investigators-say-the-mlk-case-is-closed

 

https://qz.com/1243402/who-killed-martin-luther-king-jr-revisiting-his-assassination-on-the-50th-anniversary

 

https://citizennewspapergroup.com/news/2016/apr/07/losing-king/

 

https://www.mprnews.org/story/2018/04/04/npr-books-king

 

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