For most people April 4, 2018, will roll slowly by and pass just like any other day. People will work, shop, eat, and spend time with family and friends. Some will surf the Internet in the evening and others will watch television and catch up on the latest news. Around the nation, there will be some celebrations, some parades, and a few speeches made today, but in all honestly most people will end the day thinking it was a just another typical Wednesday during the month of April, in the year 2018. The significance of the date will be lost on many, and that is sad. It is sad because fifty years ago to this day, a voice was silenced whose words and actions have had a profound and lasting impact on all of America, and in fact on all Americans. April 4, 1968, was the day they would silence a voice calling for equality, rights, and decency in America. They would silence the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
April 4, 1968, fifty years ago to this day, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was silenced by a bullet. Perhaps, being a man of prayer and having a strong love for God, King knew his time was ending. Perhaps he knew the end was near in his heart and soul when he spoke publicly the last time before his death and said, “I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,” to a group of around 3,000 gathered to hear him. He would say those words with confidence and assurance to his friends, family, and supporters. He would say them to the nation, and as the six O’clock hour came and passed, King would lay dead in a pool of his own blood, on a small concrete balcony, at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.
Within hours of King’s death, uprisings and riots would spread like wildfire across the nation. While some would pray and cry, others would seek vengeance and destroy. Nobody seemed to know exactly what to do, and the man who had told, lead, and guided was now silenced by a single bullet.
Maybe King always knew he was meant to have a short life since he strived to accomplish so much before that bullet struck him at 39 years of age. He had attended Morehouse College, was ordained as a minister by the age of 19 and would have his Ph.D. by 26. Later he would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize by the age of 35. He had lived to see the repeal of the Jim Crow laws, he had lived to see the Civil Rights Act of 1957, The Civil Rights act of 1960, and the act that would propel change across America, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which he would not only push for, but witness being signed into law. Dr. King would also write five books and leave behind countless speeches. He would go from marches and serving time in jail, to meetings with Presidents and Senators. He would become a symbol for the movement of equality and in fact become the very voice for that movement.
By April 4, 1968, King had done so much more than most people can do in a lifetime that it is no wonder that he spoke confidently when he said, “I’m not worried about anything.” His voice had been spoken, his words had been shared, his mission had been preached, and King- better than anyone else – knew that he had done what God had called him to do.
Today there isn’t a life in the United States that is not affected by Dr. King’s work. The impact of his work can be felt from the disabled person who is no longer required to be put away in an institution somewhere, to the worker who can no longer be hired or fired based on sex, religion of heritage. The Muslim who cannot be fired because of his faith has King’s work to thank. The African-American who can attend any university in the country has King’s work to thank. The woman who cannot be harassed on her job has King’s work to thank. The LGBT person that cannot be discriminated against has King’s work to thank. The list is perhaps limitless for the people that King has impacted not only during his short life, but since that fatal day of April 4, 1968.
On April 4, 1968, a bullet silenced Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; however, it could not silence the message. The message, the mission, and the belief that all people can and should be treated equally lives on 50 years later. No, Dr. King was not “worried about anything,” because on April 4, 1968, he knew he had completed the task assigned to him by God. He knew, even as the bullet silenced the voice, his words and mission would live. Today in 1968 they silenced him, but Dr. King must have felt these words on that day as they live on 50 years later, “Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.”