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50 Anniversary Death of Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. Assassination Eyewitness Opens Up 50 Years Later 50 years ago, Mary Ellen Ford witnessed the tragic moment Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in the hotel where she was working. Now, and for the very first time, Ford opens up about her extremely personal experience — one that even her brother hadn’t known for decades — to NBC’s Craig Melvin.

220px-Martin_Luther_King_Jr_NYWTS 250 Anniversary Death of Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968, an event that sent shock waves reverberating around the world. A Baptist minister and founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), King had led the civil rights movement since the mid-1950s, using a combination of impassioned speeches and nonviolent protests to fight segregation and achieve significant civil-rights advances for African Americans. His assassination led to an outpouring of anger among black Americans, as well as a period of national mourning that helped speed the way for an equal housing bill that would be the last significant legislative achievement of the civil rights era.

In the last years of his life, King faced mounting criticism from young African-American activists who favored a more confrontational approach to seeking change. These young radicals stuck closer to the ideals of the black nationalist leader Malcolm X (himself assassinated in 1965), who had condemned King’s advocacy of nonviolence as “criminal” in the face of the continuing repression suffered by African Americans.

As a result of this opposition, King sought to widen his appeal beyond his own race, speaking out publicly against the Vietnam War and working to form a coalition of poor Americans—black and white alike—to address such issues as poverty and unemployment.

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