Walking in Memphis
Posted by Heliocentrism on August 6, 2010
July 16, 2010
Martin Luther King, Jr. had been getting death threats for several months in 1968. We know this because the FBI had been listening in on Dr. King’s phone calls and taping them*. Dr. King seemed to know that his end was near.
The night before his assassination, he gave an impromptu speech that became known as his “Mountain Top” speech. The most famous part of the sermon goes like this: “…He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you.”
While walking through this museum, things came together in my head. There were many things that I already knew, but not all together. I had a better understanding of the type of man Martin Luther King, Jr. was.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born into a middle class family. He was not poor. In fact, for a black person in his time King was pretty well off. He was well-educated and very smart. He skipped two grades in high school and started college at the age of 15. He could have been very successful in anything he did in life. He could have been the first black CEO, he could have been a scientist, he could have done anything.
But he chose to help the poor, the ill-treated, the people to whom civil rights were not automatically given. It just so happened that the majority of people, at the time, in this boat were black, but he campaigned for the rights of poor white people too.
He knew there were threats on his life, but he went to Memphis anyway. He risked his life to help garbage men, because they were men and had rights like everyone else. Dr. King was shot on the balcony of his motel, the Lorraine Motel, as he and his companions were getting ready to go out for dinner.
It Came From Over There
I learned in school that Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed by James Earl Ray. They found Ray after the assassination and put him in jail. He died in 1998 behind bars.
I didn’t know there was anymore to the story, but there is more… a lot more. There is some question as to whether James Earl Ray was set up or was helped. Did the Memphis police force sit back and let this happen? Was the FBI involved in any way? Was James Earl Ray just a scapegoat?
Just like the Kennedy assassination there are some who think that the King assassination is part of some conspiracy. Did the shot really come from the bathroom window as those who arrested Ray claim? Or did the shot actually come from behind the bushes like the people, who were there at the time when King was killed, said.
Outside the museum that was once a hotel, sits a lady in protest. Her name is Jacqueline Smith. She has a story and an opinion.
After Dr. King’s death the Lorraine Motel continued to operate and have guests. The cement block stained with Dr. King’s blood was replaced. Many guests came and went.
Ms. Smith worked as a housekeeper at the Lorraine and while she worked there she also lived there. But hard times fell on the hotel and the owners were forced to sell it.
Even though she had lived and worked at the motel since 1973, in 1983 she was kicked out. The hotel would be turned into a memorial to Dr. King. This enraged Ms. Smith.
She feels that Dr. King would not have wanted this. He would have been displeased that $9 million were spent on a museum in his honor. He would have rather the money go towards the education of the poor, or for the health care of the poor, or some other aid.
I can’t help but wonder, “maybe she’s right?” Maybe this is not what he would have wanted. But, which is better, to give money to the poor or to the help people not forget our past?
How to get there:
You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.
I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.
- Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
- Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)
- Crash Course:
- CGP Grey:
- Mental Floss:
- American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot
- The Autobiography of Malcolm X
- Dandelion Wine
- The Dark Tourist
- The Devil in the White City
- Girl in Translation
- The Hemingses of Monticello
- The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid
- Notes from a Big Country
- One Summer: America, 1927
- Rolling Nowhere: Riding the Rails with America’s Hoboes
- Stealing Buddha’s Dinner
- That’s Not In My American History Book
- A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
- The Water Is Wide
- Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland
- It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.
- 35°08’04.0″N 90°03’27.0″W
450 Mulberry Street
Memphis, TN 38103
- (901) 521-9699
- 13.00USD Adults
- 11.00USD Seniors/ Students
- 9.50USD Kids 4-17 years
- Free Kids under 3
- Mon, Wed – Sat 9:00 – 17:00
- Sun 13:00 – 17:00
- Closed on Tuesday
- The museum is free on Mondays between 15:00 to 17:00 for residents of Tennessee.