40th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s Death


This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Forty years ago, African American civil rights leader, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior, was shot and killed.  He died on April fourth, nineteen sixty-eight in Memphis, Tennessee.

On Friday, in that city, presidential candidates, civil rights leaders, labor activists and thousands of citizens came together.  They honored Doctor King for leading the struggle for racial equality and economic justice.

During the nineteen fifties and sixties, Doctor King had led a campaign of non-violent protests.  His work was aimed at ending racial separation and discrimination against African Americans. 

His efforts led to passage of the Civil Rights Act of nineteen sixty-four.  That year, he won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Forty years ago, Doctor King was in Memphis to organize a strike for workers' rights.  The sanitation workers in the city were protesting their low wages and poor working conditions.  Doctor King was thirty-nine years old at the time, and had become the nation's chief civil rights leader. 

His murder incited riots in more than one hundred American cities.  The race riots lasted for days. Many African American neighborhoods burned. The government ordered about fifty thousand soldiers to help control the violence.  An estimated twenty-one thousand people were arrested.  Almost fifty people were killed.  And millions of dollars in property was damaged or destroyed.

His murder also brought about a divisive and difficult period for race relations in the United States.

In the years since his death, Doctor King has often been called one of the most honored Americans in history.  But for many, his work for racial equality remains unfinished.

In the past forty years, African Americans have become successful in education, business, entertainment and politics.  The rise of Democratic Party presidential candidate Barack Obama is a powerful sign of racial progress.  If elected in November, Mister Obama would become America's first black president. 

Yet experts say the black population as a whole has not reached equality with white people socially and economically.  Black Americans experience greater rates of poverty and crime than whites. 

Civil rights leaders say that forty years after his death, many African Americans still seek Doctor King's dream of equality and opportunity.

Martin Luther King Junior is best remembered for his nineteen sixty-three "I Have a Dream" speech.  It brought together millions of people in the United States and around the world to work for racial justice.

(SOUND: "I Have a Dream Speech")

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake.  I'm Steve Ember.