Today in Boston by Ethan Underhill: 4/4/1968 — The Heartbreak

It’s almost like he knew.

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life,” he admitted in that deliberate, drawn out baritone, “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.”

The crowd cheered.

“I may not get there with you,” he crescendoed to a bellow, “But I want you to know tonight, that we as a people will get to the Promised Land.”

The next night, today in 1968 at 6:01p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot in the back of the neck on the 2nd floor balcony of Memphis, Tennessee’s Lorraine Motel. He was rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead at 7:05.

Now, over 15 years of civil rights advocacy, would-be killers made countless attempts on his life — and with increasing frequency as MLK expanded his scope to fight for economic justice as hard as he did for racial justice. After all, he’d gone to Memphis that week to join a black sanitation workers’ strike for better conditions.

But no one, it seemed, had properly prepared for this.

Boston mourned that night not only for the loss of the world’s most formidable voice of reason, but also for one of the most brilliant students to ever walk along the dirty water. Here, the Reverend earned his Ph.D., met his wife in Coretta Scott, and discovered the nonviolent teachings that would shape the message he espoused to the world.

Furious and heartbroken, the masses rallied in the streets that night. Then, on April 5, they congregated on Boston Common to honor the life of a truly extraordinary leader.

Today, “the Promised Land” remains just out of reach in a country where people of color remain targeted, schools remain segregated, and wealth remains concentrated, to say the very least.

But we carry on, one day at a time, working to reverse our injustices and to deliver on our founding promises; inching and inching ever closer to that place Dr. King promised.

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