Bells were tolled in cities across the US and rang out 39 times – one for each of Dr. Luther’s years on Thursday, to mark the moment 50 years ago that civil rights leader Martin Luther King was gunned down by a white supremacist in Memphis, Tennessee. People gathered across the country and worldwide to honor the civil right icon.
On Tuesday night at Memphis’ Mason Temple Church of God in Christ, where he gave a speech the night before he was killed, Dr King’s daughter the Reverend Bernice King spoke about the difficulty of publicly grieving her father. On Wednesday evening’s Memphis event, one his sons, Martin Luther King III, said dramatic progress had been made in race relations, but America was nowhere near where it needed to be.
She told the audience: “One day we’ll all be able to join with Martin King and say ‘Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty we are all free at last'”.
Performers, activists, and faith leaders took to the stage and individuals gathered it was a form of re-commitment to nonviolent social change. One pastor told the crowd that this commemoration is not about yesterday or about sentimental dreams of the future, that today was about the present struggles. Carrying on King’s work, continuing his legacy has been the theme of the day with the central question, where do we go from here?