Today in Labor History: The Loss of Dr. King

On April 3, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made a speech that would be remembered as a prophecy. He spoke these words in solidarity with striking sanitation workers of AFSCME Local 1733 in Memphis, Tennessee. The next day, an assassin robbed the world of this champion for human rights. The Labor Movement continues to celebrate his memory and his life.

“You are reminding, not only Memphis, but you are reminding the nation that it is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We still have much work to be done in the fight for civil rights and workers’ rights in this country, to continue the fight that Dr. King and his own predecessors fought. The Labor Movement today, is committed to fighting for the civil and voting rights of people of color, for the dignity of the working poor, for a criminal justice system that does not see the color of a person’s skin, for economic opportunity for those who’re reentering society, for the right to live and work without fear or discrimination.

See these inspiring words from his last, “I’ve been to the Mountaintop” speech:

“And another reason that I’m happy to live in this period is that we have been forced to a point where we are going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demands didn’t force them to do it. Survival demands that we grapple with them. 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. . .

“Now, let me say as I move to my conclusion that we’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end. Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point in Memphis. We’ve got to see it through. And when we have our march, you need to be there. If it means leaving work, if it means leaving school — be there. Be concerned about your brother. You may not be on strike. But either we go up together, or we go down together.

Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness. . .

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter 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. And 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. 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!!”

To hear the full speech, click here.

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