On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. The 39-year-old civil rights leader had gone to Memphis to lead a march in support of striking sanitation workers.
The legendary orator gave his final speech on April 3 at the Bishop Charles Mason Temple Church of God. Toward the end, King seemed to be foretelling his death.
He acknowledged there were threats against his life, but said they didn’t matter, “because I’ve been to the mountaintop.”
“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life,” he said. “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 to 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! So 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!” The United States was stunned by King’s murder.
Blacks rioted in several cities, and then-president Lyndon Johnson went on national television to plead for calm.
The Vancouver Sun dispatched Wayne MacDonald of the paper’s Washington bureau to Memphis. “Just 24 hours ago, the city’s 100,000 Negroes were in a boisterous, jovial mood as they planned a major march for next Monday to be led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King,” MacDonald reported. “Today, the city is grief-stricken, angry, bitter and infuriated.”
The Sun’s Denny Boyd covered King’s funeral in Atlanta.
“Behind me, an elderly Negro woman tried to comfort her weary grandchild,” Boyd wrote. “She was telling the small boy with the polished ebony face about the civil rights work of Dr. King and the boy asked, ‘But why did they kill him?’ The woman said, ‘Because Jesus always picks the prettiest flowers to have in heaven.’ ” One hundred and fifty thousand mourners walked behind King’s casket in his funeral procession, many singing the civil rights anthem We Shall Overcome.
One hundred and twenty million people watched the funeral on television.
Ten years ago this week, the United States invaded Iraq. These two stories by James Fallows are essential to understanding the consequences of that decision.
The Fifty-First State? (Nov. 2002): Months before the invasion began, Fallows warned of the difficult responsibilities America would face as an occupying power. Was the U.S. prepared for a long-term relationship?
Bush’s Lost Year (Oct. 2004): “As a political matter, whether the United States is now safer or more vulnerable is of course ferociously controversial. That the war was necessary—and beneficial—is the Bush Administration’s central claim. That it was not is the central claim of its critics. But among national-security professionals there is surprisingly little controversy. Except for those in government and in the opinion industries whose job it is to defend the Administration’s record, they tend to see America’s response to 9/11 as a catastrophe.”
A grouper is examined by three kittens at Marineland in Florida, 1938.
Motorcycle club members wear studded leather jackets and rakish caps in London, England, June 1966.
THIRTEEN years ago, researchers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum began the grim task of documenting all the ghettos, slave labor sites, concentration camps and killing factories that the Nazis set up throughout Europe.
What they have found so far has shocked even scholars steeped in the history of the Holocaust.
The researchers have cataloged some 42,500 Nazi ghettos and camps throughout Europe, spanning German-controlled areas from France to Russia and Germany itself, during Hitler’s reign of brutality from 1933 to 1945.
The figure is so staggering that even fellow Holocaust scholars had to make sure they had heard it correctly when the lead researchers previewed their findings at an academic forum in late January at the German Historical Institute in Washington.
“The numbers are so much higher than what we originally thought,” Hartmut Berghoff, director of the institute, said in an interview after learning of the new data.
“We knew before how horrible life in the camps and ghettos was,” he said, “but the numbers are unbelievable.”
The documented camps include not only “killing centers” but also thousands of forced labor camps, where prisoners manufactured war supplies; prisoner-of-war camps; sites euphemistically named “care” centers, where pregnant women were forced to have abortions or their babies were killed after birth; and brothels, where women were coerced into having sex with German military personnel.
Auschwitz and a handful of other concentration camps have come to symbolize the Nazi killing machine in the public consciousness. Likewise, the Nazi system for imprisoning Jewish families in hometown ghettos has become associated with a single site — the Warsaw Ghetto, famous for the 1943 uprising. But these sites, infamous though they are, represent only a minuscule fraction of the entire German network, the new research makes painfully clear.
The maps the researchers have created to identify the camps and ghettos turn wide sections of wartime Europe into black clusters of death, torture and slavery — centered in Germany and Poland, but reaching in all directions.
The New York Times, “The Holocaust Just Got More Shocking”
In an allegorical turn, Tim Maly looks at the history of the hoodie and what it means to want to be private in public.
As far back as the 1840s until the 1940s, they could send them in a Vinegar Valentine. Yes, that’s right. For almost as long as Valentine’s Day has been an insufferably sappy day celebrating romantic love, it’s also been a day for telling everyone else exactly how much you don’t love them—with an anonymous poem sent via post.
Obit of the Day: “Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany”
Hans Massaquoi was very disappointed when his teacher told him that he could not join the Hitler Youth. Massaquoi’s friends had all joined and he was enthralled with the uniforms, the parades, the camp-outs. But Hans’ desire to join was trumped by the color of his skin.
Born in 1926, Mr. Massaquoi’s parents were a German nurse and the son of a Liberian diplomat. He would grow up in Hamburg as the Weimar Republic was collapsing and the the Third Reich was building up.
When he was in second grade, Mr. Massaquoi was so taken with the Nazi imagery that, at his request, his nanny sewed a swastika to his sweater. Although his mother removed it when he returned home from school, a picture had already been taken. (See above.)
Mr. Massaquoi’s family lived in Germany for the duration of the war. According to Mr. Massaquoi’s memoir, Destined to Witness, he theorized that there were so few blacks living in Germany that they were a low priority for extermination. Eventually he would move: first to his father’s home country of Liberia and later to Chicago.
In the United States, although trained in aviation mechanics, Mr. Massaquoi would become a writer for Jet magazine and eventual move to its sister publication, Ebony, where he became managing editor.
Mr. Massaquoi, who passed away on January 19, 2013 on his 87th birthday, was encouraged to write down the story of his unusual childhood by his friend and author of Roots, Alex Haley.
(Image is from Mr. Massaqoui’s collection and copyright of William Morrow Paperbacks via spiritosanto.wordpress.com)
From his memoir, Gil Scott-Heron’s recalls the 1980-1981 tour with Stevie Wonder to establish Martin Luther King Day as a national holiday.