Approaching the Appalling Assassinations of Two Accomplished Advocates
In a Year It Will Be 50 Years Since the Deaths of Martin Luther King, Jr. & Robert F. Kennedy
On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) was shot by an assassin at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. He died an hour later. A couple of months later, Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) was shot by another assassin at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California. He died 26 hours later.
The lives of these two great social reformers were intertwined prior to their premature deaths and remain intertwined today. MLK was 39 years old and RFK was 42 years old when they died. If he were still alive, MLK, who was born on January 15, 1929, would be 88 years old and RFK, who was born on November 20, 1925 would be 91 years old. Imagining what the United States, and perhaps the world, would be like today, if these two men had continued to “right social wrongs” for the past 50 years, is an inspiring topic for another article.
Beginning in 1960, MLK continuously challenged RFK to make greater commitments to civil rights. As MLK’s commitment deepened, so did RFK’s. As MLK’s stature as a national civil rights leader heightened, so did RFK’s stature as a supporter. MLK was an ordained minister and RFK served as the United States Attorney General from January 1961 through September 1964. During this time, MLK preached and promoted civil rights and RFK advocated for the same civil rights. AS Attorney General, RFK was very instrumental in the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 shaped by MLK’s advocacy. MLK continued to accomplish his reforming role as minister and prophetic voice until his death and RFK continued to promote civil rights as a U.S Senator until his death.
At no greater time were these two reformers intertwined than on the evening when MLK was assassinated. RFK, who was campaigning for the presidency, was scheduled to give a speech at a rally in Indianapolis, Indiana. Instead, he informed the crowd that MLK was shot and killed. To see a video of the announcement and a copy of it in print, click on http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/rfkonmlkdeath.html.
The next day RFK gave a speech that was entitled “The Mindless Menace of Violence.” Half way through the speech, he stated the following, which echoed MLK as did much of his entire speech
“For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly, destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is a slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter.”
The intertwined lives of these two great social reformers are celebrated uniquely through the “Landmark for Peace Memorial” which is located in Martin Luther King Memorial Park in Indianapolis, the very place where RFK made the tragic announcement just two months prior to his own assassination. It is worth noting that RFK’s death came less than five years after the death of his brother, John F. Kennedy (JFK), who was assassinated while President of the United States, and whose life was also intertwined in the civil rights advocacy of MLK and RFK.
The memorial includes a raised three-dimensional bronze sculpture that shows MLK and RFK reaching out to each other by extending an arm and hand towards one another, which you can see by clicking on the link below.
If you click on this link and scroll down to the two “Landmark for Peace Memorial” photos, you may find yourself wishing, like me, that you could take your own hands and grasp the hand of MLK and the hand of RFK as a symbol act of commitment to carry on the work of these two great reformers.
As we approach the 50-year mark of the appalling assassinations of these two accomplished advocates, may we recall how they helped the generations of their time believe that many of them could right social wrongs.
The Hub for Social Reformers will promote these two great reformers during the next 12 months in order to help us believe that many of us can change the world by righting social wrongs and to help ensure that many others in future generations will believe the same.
To learn more about the Hub for Social Reformers click here.