Martin Luther King’s final prophetic speech


On the eve of his assassination, King delivered an improvised masterpiece, ‘I’ve been to the Mountaintop’. In it, the civil rights leader foresaw his own death.

While the man who would assassinate him the next day was holed up in the New Rebel motel, hundreds of people were filtering into Mason Temple, in Memphis, Tennessee, to hear Martin Luther King Jr, speak. Outside, a thunderstorm was raging. The people clustered in the front of the church, shedding their rain-spattered jackets as they took their seats.

Then they waited.

King was an hour and a half late. Pausing a moment as he stepped to the rostrum, he peered over a welter of microphones. As TV cameramen flooded him with light, his face took on a luminous sheen. But something seemed amiss.

After he greeted the audience, he lauded them for braving the storm, coming to the rally, showing that they had the backbone to carry on with the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike.

In the words to follow King had nothing more to say about the storm. Yet you could say that the storm still had something to say to him. Time and again, wind gusts punched open two large window fans near the ceiling of the auditorium. The shutters clacked shut each time, startling King.

“Every time there was a bang,” Billy Kyles recalled later, “he would flinch.”

King looked “harried and tired and worn and rushed”, observed one minister. He had a sore throat and was sleep-deprived. By the end of the speech that he would deliver that night, everyone in Mason Temple would know another reason why he seemed out of sorts. Continued at The Guardian