On the night Martin Luther King was killed,
Robert Kennedy mounted the back of a flatbed truck and faced
a sea of African-American women and men in Indianapolis.
Gasoline scented the air.
Some people had chains, knives and guns. Ready. Waiting.
RFK ON MLK ON APRIL 4
He had never spoken of his murdered brother before,
not publicly, not like this.
For five years, he had held that pain close, kept it to himself.
Now he used it to pave common ground with these people...
He used his grief to say that he understood theirs,
to remind them that grief is not black or white,
but just human.
To Orwell Today,
re: WINSTON BEGAN DIARY APRIL 4TH and MORE APRIL 4 DIARIES
Also on April 4, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Leonard Pitts posted a great commentary about Robert Kennedy, much of which you have mentioned before in ALL-AMERICAN MEMORIES.
It's called, When MLK died, one man reached across the divide. Miami Herald, Apr 4, 2008
P.S. By turning the peace symbol topsy-turvy you can see that there is a ‘v’ imbedded within. War spun upside down = peace.
Not many people know that story behind Bobby Kennedy breaking the news about MLK's assassination and how hostile black people were towards all whites that April 4th, 1968 night. Also, it was the first time Bobby had spoken in public about the assassination of his brother, JFK, five years before.
Here are pertinent passages from that April 4th Miami article:
...Greatness and grace were desperately needed in those frightening hours. On the night Martin Luther King was killed, furious black people mourned the man of peace by making war. Rocks and bottles were thrown in Jackson, Miss. Tampa police had to move in with bayonets fixed to disperse an angry crowd. A furniture store in Houston was torched.
And Sen. Robert F. Kennedy went to Indianapolis. People told him not to. The Indiana capitol was tragedy waiting to happen. Kennedy, campaigning for the Democratic nomination for the presidency, was scheduled to address a huge crowd at an intersection in the inner city. Most of the crowd was black, but a smattering were white. Some knew what had happened in Memphis. Many still did not.
And what would they do when they found out? What would they do when they learned that this most revered of men had been murdered by a white man hiding in ambush? Would those black people -- many of them young, angry, impatient with speeches and marches and promises of justice -- rain their rage, bitterness and grief upon the most convenient target: the white people standing among them?
This was what authorities feared. So Kennedy's men advised him sternly to call off the rally for his own safety. Kennedy refused. As his car approached, police stopped it and gave similar advice. Stay out. Stay away. Again, Kennedy refused....
On the night Martin Luther King was killed, 14th Street in Washington, D.C. was burned. On the night Martin Luther King was killed, black people stoned police cars near a housing project in the Boston neighborhood of Roxbury.
And on the night Martin Luther King was killed, Robert Kennedy mounted the back of a flatbed truck and faced a sea of African-American women and men in Indianapolis. Gasoline scented the air. Some people had chains, knives and guns. Ready. Waiting.
"I've got some very sad news for all of you," he said, "and, I think, sad news for all of our fellow citizens and people who love peace all over the world. And that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee."
Shrieks rose from those who did not know. Dismay. Disbelief.
Kennedy spoke on. In this difficult hour, he said, "it is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black, considering the evidence evidently is that there were white people who were responsible, you can be filled with bitterness and with hatred and a desire for revenge. We can move in that direction as a country. . . . Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion and love."
He used no notes. His voice was measured. The crowd was still. "For those of you who are black," he continued, "and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed."
He had never spoken of his murdered brother before, not publicly, not like this. For five years, he had held that pain close, kept it to himself. Now he used it to pave common ground with these people, so unlike him in so many ways. He used his grief to say that he understood theirs, to remind them that grief is not black or white, but just human. And he quoted the Greek poet Aeschylus to suggest that if they could just get through grief, they would yet find reward on the other side:
"Even in our sleep,
pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until in our own despair,
against our will,
comes wisdom through
the awful grace of God."
"What we need in the United States," he said, "is not division, what we need in the United States is not hatred, what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black."
The applause was at first hesitant. Then it grew. Somebody cheered. Hope redeemed....
On the night Martin Luther King was killed, two police officers were shot in Detroit, windows were smashed in Raleigh, the mayor of New York was driven from Harlem by an angry mob. And Robert Kennedy reached across. On the night Martin Luther King was killed, Indianapolis slept in peace. [end quoting from Pitts article]
All the best,
Robert Kennedy Announces Death of Martin Luther King, Indiannapolis, April 4th, 1968 (Indianapolis was the only major city in America that did not riot that night. "Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."
Robert Kennedy on the Death of Martin Luther King, Jr. Great Speeches, The History Place
And now on to Chicago...": The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, Maryland State Archives
KING, NOT KENNEDY, AN ADULTERER
JFK/RFK ASSASSINATION PUZZLE
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