The King Assassination: 40 Years Later

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Forty years ago today, an assassin's bullet killed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis Tennessee.

He was only 39-years-old and in the middle of a Civil Rights revolution.

King has been dead longer than he was alive, and as many celebrate his life and legacy, we ask where is the dream he worked so hard to fulfill?

Facing constant threats, Dr. Martin Luther King felt his destiny might include an early death but when it came, no one was prepared.

It happened at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.

"I was in my room, and I was walking around and I heard what I thought was sure was a riffle shot," said Professor Earl Caldwell of Hampton University. Caldwell was the only journalist on the scene that day. He was a reporter for The New York Times.

"I ran out to where King was and I saw people jumping up and down. Those were King's men's Andrew Jackson, all his ministers, his inside group…when I got up there, the wound in his face was as big as your fist," Caldwell said.

But despite this tragic ending, King's message of Bible quotations and non-violence to end the evils of segregation and unfair treatment lived on.

But have things changed?

"It's a very complicated concept; obviously we've made tremendous progress," FOX News contributor Juan Williams said.

Influential African Americans lead many top companies, but blacks still earn substantially less. For example, Kenneth Chenault heads American Express, Clarence Otis heads Darden Restaurants and of course there's media mogul Oprah Winfrey.

And racism, while less overt, still rears its ugly head.

"One of the things that always surprises me is the level of denial in the white community, where people would say we've got good colored folk out there, we've got good relations," Williams said. "I don't know what you people are talking about, stirring up trouble."

Segregated schools still exist.

"We still haven't fixed them, 50 years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today's black and white students," presidential hopeful Barack Obama said during a speech on how racism

And the negative effects of slavery linger on.

"Descendants of slaves did not get much of a head start, and I think you continue to see some of the effects of that," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said.

"That particular birth defect makes it hard for us to confront it, hard for us to talk about it, and hard for us to realize that it has continuing relevance for who we are today."

But many believe each new generation brings hope and change for the better.

"I believe we are getting better," said Caldwell.

"Look at the level of representation, participation in main stream America, politics, economics, every aspect of American life for better or worse," Williams said.

And King continues to be an inspiration…

"I am doing everything in my power to be a good person, an upstanding citizen, a great daughter, a great student," Tiara Carr, senior at Hampton University said. "I think that's basically what he wanted from us - to do the best of your ability in life."

Hampton University senior Ronald Clark agrees.

"The man did so much for so many people in a short amount of time that he has to be with you when you're doing what you're doing throughout the day. If you don't want to wake up and get going, you have to remember that people fought and died so that you would have the opportunity."

And the dream lives on.

EVENTS HONORING DR. KING

Memphis, Tenn.
National Civil Rights Museum
Candle Light Vigil

Atlanta
Morehouse College
Renaissance Processional on Equality

Philadelphia
Bridge Walk for Peace

Dayton Ohio
Peace Museum: 937.227.3223
•MLK: Mountaintop
•An Afternoon w/Dr. King: Fellowship, Learning and Action

Hampton Roads, VA
SCLC Day of Prayer: 757.877.0792

California
Stanford
Drum Major for Peace and Justice

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Robin Mazyck and Charlene Israel

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