On April 4, 1968, the day after he delivered his powerful “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech in Memphis, Tennessee, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated at age 39.
King was in Memphis to support black sanitation workers who were on strike to protest unequal wages and work conditions.
He gave the speech, the last he would ever give, at the Mason Temple, arriving late after his flight was delayed due to a bomb threat, something he poignantly addressed at the end of his talk.
In remembrance of the civil rights leader’s untimely death 49 years ago today, here are nine timely quotes from “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.”
“Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty and say, ‘If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the twentieth century, I will be happy.’”
“The world is all messed up. The nation is sick, trouble is in the land, confusion all around. … But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.”
“The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee, the cry is always the same: “We want to be free.”
“Men for years now have been talking about war and peace. But now no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it's nonviolence or nonexistence. That is where we are today.”
“When people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory.”
“Somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right. And so just as I say we aren't going to let any dogs or water hoses turn us around, we aren't going to let any injunction turn us around. We are going on. We need all of you.”
“Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge, to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation.”
“Well, I don't know what will happen now; we've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter to with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life — longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. … 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. “
“And 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.”