Martin Luther King, Jr.: “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”


In late March 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968), traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, to lend his support to the city's sanitation workers, who had gone out on strike. Because the bulk of the 1,300 striking workers were African Americans, the strike evolved into a civil rights struggle, attracting the attention of the news media and other prominent civil rights leaders. On the evening of April 3, King delivered his “I've Been to the Mountaintop” speech at the Mason Temple (of the Church of God in Christ). It was to be his last speech. The following day, King was felled by an assassin's bullet, bringing an end to the career of the nation's most prominent and respected civil rights leader in the 1950s and 1960s. Consistent with speeches he had been giving for years, King emphasized such themes as unity, nonviolence, protest, and boycotts. For many readers, the speech is more than a speech; rather, it is in the nature of a sermon, with references to the biblical book of...

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Martin Luther King, Jr. (Library of Congress)

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