#MLK50: How did Martin Luther King Jr. view death in the face of activism?
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the death of civil rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, who was shot and killed on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. Although he was constantly threatened with violence, Dr. King stood strong using non-violent tactics and practicing civil obedience for justice.
Now, thinking about #MLK50, we wonder did Dr. King ever think about his own death? And, how did he find the courage to continue to be an activist while constantly facing danger?
Dr. King had brushes with death before he was killed in Memphis. He frequently received death threats to both his family and himself. Also, on September 30th, 1956, while Dr. King was at church, his house was bombed with his wife Coretta Scott King and eldest daughter, Yolanda King inside. Both were unharmed.
And in 1958, an African-American woman named Izola Curry stabbed Dr. King in the chest during a book sign in Harlem. Dr. King survived and forgave Curry, but the event made the threat of death a reality.
King even dealt with threats from the U.S. government. In 2014, the New York Times published unreleased letters sent to MLK from the FBI, commonly known as ‘the suicide letters. The correspondence contained supposed details of King’s alleged extra marital affairs and encouraged him to kill himself rather than face the public outrage.
Although Dr. King lived under this constant fear, he preached that death is the ultimate sacrifice for advancing the cause of justice. Today, we remember his bravery and recognize his assassination as a tragedy that should have never happened.
Like Dr. King many Black leaders have paid the price for activism – whether it be attempts on their life or the related health toll of being on the front lines.
If we want Black activists to make a difference for our people, we need to offer them the support necessary to survive being arrested, attacked, and emotionally drained.
Let’s not wait until our heroes die to celebrate them.
Let’s lift them up now.