Martin Luther King Jr.

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Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) was a Baptist minister in Atlanta, Georgia, leader in the U.S. civil rights movement and president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, who gave his I Have a Dream speech at the 1963 March on Washington. He was the recipient of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize (youngest recipient). King was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.

Assassination

King was fatally shot on April 4th, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. The assassination took place at about 6 p.m., during the evening news period in the United States. Escaped convict James Earl Ray confessed to and was convicted for the killing. Because there were no television crews with the King entourage or in the vicinity, initial reports were inaccurate and somewhat dispassionate, though full television coverage followed soon after.

The juxtaposition of King’s violent death against his professed philosophy of non-violence had a profound effect on many, in diverse walks of life. President Lyndon B. Johnson called for a rejection of the type of violence that had led to King’s death. Ballet dancer Arthur Mitchell, said that he was prompted to give up his own dancing career and look for a way to “give back” to the African American community, a search that would lead to the founding of the Dance Theatre of Harlem. It is probably fair to say that King's death was most keenly felt in the African American Community, but the King assassination clearly left an impression on non-Blacks as well. There were also spontaneous expressions of anger, with rioting in over 60 American cities, and civil unrest in many others.

On 11 April, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Bill.