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S. 13 originals. The hour was late half past 9:00 on the evening of Wednesday, April 3rd, 1968, at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, the seat of the Pentecostal Church of God in Christ, Martin Luther King Jr. had taken the pulpit. A heavy storm had blown through at dusk, keeping turnout light for the rally for the city, striking sanitation workers. King hadn't wanted to leave the Lorraine Motel, where he was staying in room 306, but had conceded when his friend Ralph Abernathy called him and said he needed to brave the rain.


Thank you very kindly, my friend. As I listened to Ralph Abernathy and his eloquent and generous introduction and then thought about myself, I wonder who he was talking about. I'm delighted to see each of you here tonight, in spite of a storm, one, you reveal that you are determined to go on in a high. It had already been a long day in Atlanta, King's commercial Delta flight to Memphis had been held up for fear of a bomb in the baggage hold.


The pilot had told the passengers, ladies and gentlemen, I want to apologize for the delay. But today we have on board Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and we have to be very careful. We had the plane guarded all night and we have been checking people's luggage. Now that everything's clear, we are preparing for takeoff. And so now King struck elegiac notes in the Memphis night above the cries of his followers, many of whom were transported by the emotion of his presentation.


King uttered his final public words. I'm happy tonight.


I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man, man. I have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. Before twenty four hours had passed, Martin Luther King Jr. would be dead.


And yet the words he spoke live on. This is Jon Meacham. Welcome to season one of it was said Episode one, I have been to the mountaintop. There's tension in the air because many critics are telling Dr. King that his campaign is actually going to incite violence in Washington, D.C. So you have a sense of a presidency under siege. You have a sense of a country really at odds with itself in a lot of ways. And I remember as a child looking into his eyes, the sadness, the fear.


And I knew then that something was happening. King's final speech is a vital document in understanding the history of America. In it, he spoke of civil rights, of economic justice, a victories won and battles still to be fought, battles unfolding even now more than half a century later.


In his voice and in his words, we hear the cry of a preacher for a nation to repent, for a people to rise up with non-violence and with dignity, and for all of us down the decades to seek equality and justice, let us set the scene. King was something of an unlikely crusader. Providence or fate, depending on one's worldview, had brought him to the center of the great domestic drama of the American century, a scion of the African-American ecclesiastical elite.


His father, Martin Luther King senior, was a leading preacher, the pastor of Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church. The younger king was educated at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Crosier Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania and Boston University. He was called to the pulpit of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1954. Then, in December of 1955, a simple yet momentous act of resistance put Montgomery at the center of the civil rights movement.


Just the other day, one of the fine citizens of our community, Mrs. Rosa Parks, was arrested because she refused to give up her seat for a white passenger.


Mrs. Rosa Parks was arrested and taken down to jail, taken from the bus just because she refused to give up her seat at present. We are in the midst of a protest. The Negro citizens of Montgomery, representing some 44 percent of the population, 90 percent at least, are the regular Negro bus. Passengers are staying off the buses and we plan to continue until something is done.


Now, organizers in Montgomery needed a place to gather to explore the boycott, Ed Nixon, the president of the local NAACP, called King Nixon wanted to hold the gathering at Dexter Avenue. Geography, as Napoleon is said to have remarked, was destiny. Dexters central location made the church convenient for people working in downtown offices, wrote King biographer Taylor Branch. Yes, of course, King told Nixon. Come ahead.


They asked me to serve as a spokesman, and from this time I found myself in a leadership position in the civil rights struggle.


On the night he first spoke to a mass meeting on the boycott, King sensed the possibilities of the moment, not least because there were so many people flocking to the gathering that his car couldn't get near the building. This king remarked to a friend, could turn into something big. We are here this evening for serious business, King told the huge crowd on Monday, December 5th, 1955. The only recording of King's Speech is scratchy and at times difficult to hear.


It was captured in a crowded Alabama church. At a time. King was largely unknown to the American public. But in the muffled, crackling audio, one can certainly make out the resonant voice of a burgeoning leader.


We are generally very involved. First and foremost, we are Americans and we are determined to apply for citizenship to the service.


He saluted Rosa Parks courage, then offered a trilogy of sentences that transported his audience and set the keynote for the next dozen years of his now public life.


You're not going to the time when people have been talking about freedom of press. People being from time to time when people are being pushed out of the classroom. We have a better person here, a.m., but I find myself. As the ecstatic crowd calmed, he said, again, we are here because we are tired now. And at last count, my brother turned out for. From that moment until his assassination on the balcony of that Memphis motel in April 1968, King would lead a complex movement of nonviolent protest against segregation and for economic justice.


His house in Montgomery was bombed within two months of his debut boycott sermon. A threatening caller using racial slurs told him, if you aren't out of this town in three days, we're going to blow your brains out and blow up your house. Yet King's faith sustained him. Lord, I'm down here trying to do what's right. He prayed after the call. But Lord, I must confess that I'm weak now. I'm faltering. I'm losing my courage.


As King recalled it, I could hear an inner voice saying to me, Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness, stand up for justice, stand up for truth. And lo, I will be with you even until the end of the world. I heard Jesus saying still to fight on. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone. By consistently making a non-violent case against segregation, King and innumerable others appealed to the nation's conscience in memorable campaigns, from sit ins to Freedom Rides, to Mississippi's Freedom Summer to the Children's Crusade in Birmingham, protest and high politics, the crucial forces that history usually requires to make great changes intersected, most notably, perhaps on Wednesday, August 28th, 1963, at the March on Washington.


I have the pleasure to present to you Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. Five score years ago, a great American in whose symbolic shadow we stand today signed the Emancipation Proclamation.


This momentous decree came King's address to the march that afternoon was not going well, or at least not as well as he'd hoped. The day had been long.


The crowds massed before the Lincoln Memorial were ready for some rhetorical adrenaline, some true poetry.


King's task was to lift his speech from the ordinary to the historic, from the mundane to the sacred. He was standing before the greatest audience of his life yet with the television networks broadcasting live and President Kennedy watching from the White House. King was struggling with the text that had been drafted by too many hands late the previous night at the Willard Hotel. One sentence he was about to deliver was particularly awkward. And so today, let us go back to our communities.


As members of the International Association for the Advancement of Creative Dissatisfaction, King was on the verge of letting the hour passing by.


Then, as on Easter morning at the Tomb of the Crucified Jesus, there was the sound of a woman's voice. King had already begun to extemporize when the singer Mahalia Jackson spoke up. Tell him about the dream, Martin. Jackson said King left his text altogether at this point, a departure that put him on a path to speaking words of American scripture, words as essential to the nation's destiny in their way as those of Lincoln before whose Memorial King stood, and those of Jefferson, whose monument lay to the preachers right toward the Potomac.


The moments of ensuing oratory lifted King above the tumult of history and made him a figure of history. A new founding father in Taylor Branch's apt phrase. I say to you today, my friend.


So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. Drawing on the Bible and My Country Tis of thee on the Emancipation Proclamation and the Constitution, King like Jefferson and Lincoln before him projected an ideal vision of an exceptional nation. In King's imagined country,


hope triumphed over fear. In doing so, King defined the best of the nation, as surely as Jefferson did in Philadelphia in 1776 or Lincoln did at Gettysburg in 1863.


I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream of my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of our skin, but by the content of their character.


I have a dream to be. Like are more familiar, Founders', Washington, Adams, Hamilton, Jefferson, King was a practical idealist, a man who could articulate the perfect but knew that human progress, while sometimes intoxicatingly rapid, tends to be provisional. The march was but a step, 1963, King said that day was not an end, but a beginning.


Are you interested in the story of an incredibly close presidential election where the result continues to echo through our country today, then check out 60 20, which tells the story of the election of 1960 and John F. Kennedy's razor thin victory by just two tenths of one percent in the popular vote.


The series will cover the 1960 campaign from the primaries through election night, highlighting key moments and lesser known stories in the race leading up to the final vote, 60 20 takes a look at how the threat from Russia and other foreign powers has changed, or in some cases remained constant over the last 60 years.


60 20 also gives listeners a sense of what was happening in America during this pivotal time, as sit ins and other demonstrations against racial segregation swept the country. And as the arms race and fear of the Soviet Union shaped how many Americans viewed the world around them, 60 20 is a special podcast series from the JFK Library Foundation.


Find it on Apple podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. Nineteen sixty eight had begun with the Tet Offensive and cascaded into chaos. It was a period of disorienting violence, of disorder, of loss, of pervasive tragedy. 1968 was one of the most dramatic years in American history, in American politics, certainly in the 20th century. And that was already well underway by the time King went to Memphis that spring.


This is the author and professor of American Studies at Yale University, Beverly Gage. Lyndon Johnson had just announced that he was not going to run again as the Democratic nominee for president, and that was largely because he felt under assault from anti-war protesters. He felt that the civil rights movement had turned against him, didn't appreciate what he had done. So you have the sense of a presidency under siege. You have a sense of a country really at odds with itself in a lot of ways.


And King himself is really going through a transformation during these years to expanding his earlier vision of civil rights into something that's going to be much more about economic equality. That is going to be a kind of sweeping campaign that's using a language of human rights and of economic equality.


A focus of his work in the wake of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act became opposition to the war in Vietnam, which was disproportionately affecting black Americans. To this, King added the cause of economic justice and the dismantling not only of Jim Crow, but of systemic racism. That's why he was in Memphis in April of 1968. King was leading a new nonviolent movement for economic justice called the Poor People's Campaign. The Reverend James M. Lawson, a key figure in teaching nonviolence to King John Lewis, Diane Nash and others, was living in Memphis on the banks of the Mississippi River and took up the cause of sanitation workers who were being exploited.


Memphis is a deeply segregated city. It's the hardscrabble city. It's a working class city. And many of those local people were very, very tired of the segregation and also the economic poverty and privation that they experienced. So there's going to be a lot of local activists, but also just ordinary local people who come to that church that evening.


This is the author and professor of history at the University of Texas, Peniel Joseph and King had first gone to Memphis on March 18th and led a great demonstration that it was so exciting. He promised to return and he returned at the end of March. But there was some violence in that demonstration and then he vowed to come back and lead a nonviolent demonstration. So April 3rd, there's tension in the air because many critics are telling Dr. King that his poor people's campaign is actually going to incite violence in Washington, D.C. And if he can't lead a nonviolent demonstration in Memphis, how can he lead a poor people's caravan into the nation's capital?


His effort to organize a peaceful demonstration in Memphis fell to violence, as some say provocateurs. Others say more militant black power proponents broke windows downtown. King felt despondent. This is the author and professor of African-American studies at Princeton University, Eddie Glaude, there's a kind of deep depression in the air that the movement that has been so important to him has in some ways failed. He's tried to pick up the pieces with the Poor People's Campaign, right. That he has come to realize that integrated Encounter's is not sufficient.


In fact, many of the young people who were screaming Black Power were former proponents of nonviolence who had risked everything in the South. And so King, who was exhausted, depressed, many of his advisers did not want him to return to Memphis, felt it necessary to show solidarity with these garbage workers who were working under horrible conditions.


You see this what happens in Memphis very powerfully on Friday is affecting your plans in Washington. When I plan John Legend in a going on and we are more determined than ever before to go to Washington, Memphis will not in any way curtail our plans in Washington, are detached from going into this all important movement around jobs and income and to bring out to dramatize the problem of poverty in our country. Yes, that reminds me meeting tonight.


Initially, Dr. King wasn't going to come. He was still in his hotel room and Ralph Abernathy was going to give the speech because it was a stormy night. The skies had opened. It was raining cats and dogs. Those of us in the south know we know what that kind of rain is. And he received the call because the church was overflowing with people. And Ralph said, you have to come. They want to hear you. And he got out of bed and he came.


On the night of April 3rd, King arrived at the Mason Temple, the nation was reeling and the civil rights movement was at a crossroads.


King was in Memphis for a particular case that of the workers and to underscore universal truths, the masses of people are rising up and wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa. Nairobi, Kenya. Accra, Ghana. New York City. Atlanta, Georgia. Jackson, Mississippi. Or Memphis, Tennessee. The cry is always the same. We want to be free. The audience was made up of working folk, not just simply the church folk, working class, black folk, garbage workers, other unions, the wives of hard working people, it was working class Memphis.


See, this is really important because there's this sense that King's movement or the movement itself that King led was predominantly a kind of black middle class expression. But in this moment, the audience reflected a broad cross-section of black Memphis.


And it was principally, I think, those who stood in solidarity with the people who picked up our trash.


How are we going to march again? And we've got to march again in order to put the issue where it is supposed to be. We are going to let enemy stop us. We are masters in our nonviolent movement in disarming police forces. They don't know what to do. I've seen them so often. I remember in Birmingham, Alabama, we were in that majestic struggle where we would move out of the 16th Street Baptist Church day after day by the hundreds, we would move out.


Bull Connor would tell them to send the dog home. And they did come. But we just went before the dogs. Singing Ain't gonna let nobody turn me around. King is very, very vocal in his support of a political and economic revolution that's going to be nonviolent, but that's going to transform the living conditions of all black people in Memphis. It's an inspiring speech. It's a defiant speech. It's a speech where Dr. King says the greatness of America lies in the right to protest for right.


It's a speech where he alludes to Birmingham five years earlier and he says in Birmingham, we didn't let any dogs turn us around. And he says tomorrow we're not going to let any illegal injunction turn us around.


Are we say to America is be true to what you said on paper. I lived in China or even Russia or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions. Maybe I could understand the denial of a certain basic First Amendment privileges because they haven't committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly, somewhere I read of the freedom of speech, somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest their rights.


So just as I say, we are going in a dog of water hoses, turn us around, we are going to let any injunction turn around. So this is in reference to a court order that was saying they couldn't demonstrate and they couldn't march for fear of safety, public safety. And King is saying that no matter what happens in court the next day, because the movement was trying to get that injunction lifted, they were going to march. When we think about the promise of 1963 and Birmingham in a march on Washington had opened up this generational opportunity for racial justice.


By 68, we see the war in Vietnam is raging. There is division within the movement, the black movement, over which way to go. Is it going to be the way towards black power, radical political self-determination, self-defense, or is it going to be massive, non-violent civil disobedience in a way that can bring together a coalition of the oppressed for both a peace movement and ending the war in Vietnam, but also an economic justice movement that brings together poor whites, brings together Native Americans and Latin folks and, of course, black Americans to come to Washington, D.C. together as a united front to build the beloved community.


We need all of you know. What's beautiful to me is to see all of the ministers of the Gulf. It's a marvelous picture. Who is it that is supposed to articulate the longings and aspirations of the people more than to preach? Somehow the preacher must have a kind of fire set up in his phone, and whenever injustice is around, he must kill it somehow. The preacher must be an Amos said when God speaks, who can prophesy again with they must let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.


Somehow the preacher must say, with Jesus, the spirit of the law of disappointment, because he hasn't noticed me and he's anointed me to deal with the problems of the poor. It's all right to talk about long white robes over yonder, you know, all of its symbolism. But ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here. I think the thing that's most profound about the speech is the way in which King is crafting this mosaic, he's bringing in elements of black powers, criticism of structural racism, but he stays attached to his own Christian nonviolent belief in the beloved community.


So you see his reverence for American democracy in that speech. You see his reverence towards Christianity. In that speech, you see his reverence for just the ordinary activism and the shared sacrifice and shared struggle, what he used to call bearing witness in that speech. So I think it's a speech that sort of knits together different aspects of the black freedom struggle that at times are in conflict with each other. But King gives them sort of this glorious coherence in that last speech.


There is a sense in which those later days in King's life, he is offering this profound economic criticism or critique of the country. He understands the relationship between racism at the level of law and how that racism evidences itself in the material conditions of black folk. So there is this sense and some continuity here.


People were talking about jobs and freedom in the context of the march on Washington.


But I think because of the nature of the action that the idea of King's standing in solidarity with these garbage workers who had been mistreated by the local municipality, brought into full focus, into full view the economic underpinnings of racism in the south and in the country.


That's the question for you tonight. Not if I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to my job, not if I stop to help the sanitation workers. What will happen to all of violence that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor? The question is not if I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me? The question is, if I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?


That's the question. When you listen to his voice, there is a kind of blues note in it, there's a sense in which he knows he's been saying this over and over again like a broken record, and he draws on some pet formulations, connecting it to what he's organising for right at the time they're organizing the Poor People's Campaign. But then there's that abrupt shift at the hip that caught everyone by surprise. I want to tell you about another history podcast that explores how moments in history continue to shape our world today.


History This Week is a podcast that explores events big and small, that change the course of history. And one episode, you'll find out how a flood of molasses changed public policy forever. In another, you'll hear profound stories of the human spirit from Holocaust survivors themselves. History this week comes out every Monday. Subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. King's speech to the striking sanitation workers in Memphis was one of unwavering support for their cause. It was an eloquent demand for justice and an inspiring call to action rooted firmly in the gospel of Jesus and in the philosophy of civil disobedience.


But as the night came to a close, King's oratory took on a different tone and his mind gravitated toward the many threats that had been made against his life. Now, it doesn't matter now. It really doesn't matter what happens now. I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, there were six of us, 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 on the plane. We have 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 see the book.


I talk about the threats that, wow, what would happen to me from some of our sick white brother.


He had the heart of a 60 plus year old man. The world had gotten the best of him. You know, there's a story that Taylor Branch writes or he's organizing in a small town in Mississippi trying to desegregate a school. And he watches these adults, these grown men with ax handles and tree branches, assault children, breaking a young boy's leg, yanking the ponytail of a young girl. And he retreats to bed. He refuses to get out.


He didn't know what to do. And luckily, the folk singer Joan Baez was there. She came to organize and march with him and she sat down by his side and sang it a cappella version of Pilgrim Sorrow. And he opened his eyes.


I'm always struck as a little boy when I first saw the video footage of the mountaintop speech. But I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. And I remember as a child looking into his eyes, the sadness, the fear. And I knew then as a child that something big was happening. I'm still drawn to his eyes. So sad.


Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead, but it really doesn't matter with me now because I've been to the mountaintop. 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.


He was feeling fatalistic, prophetically so. The next day, Thursday, April 4th, King retreated to his room 306 at the Lorraine, worrying about the strike and working on his sermon for Sunday. It's titled Why America May Go to Hell. By 5:00 p.m., he was hungry and looked forward to supper, always fastidious, a prince of the church king shaved, put on cologne and stepped onto the balcony. He pours a 30 out six rifle shot, slammed him back against the wall.


He was not yet 40 years old. They've named Dr. Martin Luther King, the apostle of nonviolence in the civil rights movement has been shot to death in Memphis, Tennessee. Police have issued an all points bulletin for a well-dressed young white man seen running from the scene. Dr. King was standing on the balcony of a second floor hotel room tonight when, according to a companion, a shot was fired from across the street. Dr. King had returned to Memphis only yesterday, determined to prove that he could lead a peaceful mass march in support of striking sanitation workers, most of whom are Negroes.


King's mortal pilgrimage was done in Atlanta, a mule drawn cart carried his body through the city streets. An estimated 120 million Americans watched the funeral. Mourners in the April heat included Jacqueline Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Robert Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey, Harry Belafonte, Marlon Brando, Sammy Davis Jr., Aretha Franklin, Eartha KITT, Jackie Robinson, Diana Ross and the Supremes and Stevie Wonder. The segregationist governor of Georgia, Lester Maddox, declined to attend, spending the day in the Golden State capital under an increased guard.


He was, Newsweek wrote, worried about the onset of Armageddon. If they come in here, Maddox told his troopers. We're going to stack them up. Yet there was no violence from the surging mourners in Atlanta, only grief at Journey's end. King's epitaph was drawn not from scripture, but from the canon of African-American spirituals. Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last. King was not perfect, but then no man is to know him is to know American history.


From the bus boycott in Montgomery to the showdowns in Birmingham from the I Have a Dream speech to the struggle for voting rights in Selma from his anti-poverty Poor People's Campaign to his ferocious opposition to the Vietnam War. King spoke with the voice of a prophet urging the nation to repent and return to righteousness. The movement was about much more than King, but it's a recurrent fact of history that human beings seek apostles who embody more widely shared creeds and in the battle against Jim Crow and for economic justice in the crucial decades of the 1950s and 1960s, King was that apostle.


He represented the hopes and the fears of millions, he will be a player upon the stage, a source of fascination and veneration as long as the American story is told the words he spoke on the last night of his life about justice, about dignity, about protest, echo stills.


And he has allowed me to go up to the mountain. 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. And we are the people we get to the promised land. So I'm happy tonight, I'm not worried about anything, I'm not feeling any more than my. I have seen the glory of the. In the next episode of it was said, a look at Robert Kennedy's impromptu eulogy for Martin Luther King Jr.


, a heartfelt plea for unity and love amid grief and anger in Indianapolis. Thank you for listening to it was said. A creation and production of C 13 originals, a division of Caden's 13 in association with history executive produced by me, Jon Meacham and Chris Corcoran, directed by Lloyd Lockridge, edited, produced, engineered and master by Chris Basil with production support and research by Bill Schulz and John McDermott and research assistants by Ian Mott. Creative Consultation by Eli Lehrer and Jesse Katz.


Graphic Design, Marketing and Publicity by Josephine and Francis, Kirk, Courtney and Hillary Shuff. Our theme song is I Can Almost See You by Hammack. In our closing credits, song is Light by Michael Kiwanuka.