Last Wednesday, April 4, marked the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. In tribute to his life and legacy, the Alabama Department of Archives & History held an event called “The Words”, a public reading of nine of Dr. King’s most famous speeches, including “Eulogy for the Martyred Children,” which was read by our very own Alexandria Hale.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words have had a major impact on the entire world, are still read today, and have inspired many people to continue pursuing his dream. Readings included King’s first speech to the Montgomery Improvement Association. In this speech, he stressed the importance of nonviolence during the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. The May 17, 1957 speech titled “Give Us The Ballot,” delivered at the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, called for secure voting rights for African-Americans. In his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, King pushes for America to “make real the promises of democracy” and put an end to racism and inequality in society. “Our God Is Marching On” was given after the conclusion of the Selma-to-Montgomery March. This speech urged activists to continue on with their works, telling them, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” In his final speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”, given just a day before his assassination, King talks about the struggles in Memphis and how they are connected to a much larger quest for freedom and equality.
The reading was ended with a slideshow of selections from Jim Peppler’s photographs of King’s funeral. The audience was asked to leave the auditorium in silence out of respect for Dr. King’s legacy.