APRIL 3, 1968
In Memphis, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his last speech, supporting more than 1,300 sanitation workers striking to protest their poor working conditions and wages. More than 2,000 came to hear him speak.
King shared the story of the Good Samaritan, where religious leaders passed by a wounded man instead of aiding him: “The question is not, ‘If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?’ ‘If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?’ That’s the question.”
As a storm raged, he told the crowd that “the masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya: Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee – the cry is always the same — ‘We want to be free.’”
He talked of his brush with death when a woman stabbed him and talked of threats against him now.
“We’ve got some difficult days ahead,” he told the crowd. “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 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.”
He was assassinated the next day.