Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King gave his final speech. Did he conclude by predicting his assassination?
It was a bin lorry that brought Martin Luther King to Memphis the week he was killed.
Two months earlier, two black bin-men – Echol Cole and Robert Walker – took shelter in their lorry during a storm.
When a switch malfunctioned, they were crushed. Their deaths, the city’s response, and the workers’ conditions, led to a strike by hundreds of black employees.
So, when Martin Luther King stood in front of 2,000 people at the Mason Temple, on a stormy April night in Memphis, it was to support Cole, and Walker, and the colleagues they left behind.
What came next, though, meant it was remembered for much more.
Really, the speech was not about the strike – it wasn’t mentioned until 11 minutes in – but the struggle, and Dr King’s role in it. The final passage looks like prophecy.
“We’ve got some difficult days ahead,” Dr King told the crowd. “But it really doesn’t matter to me now, because I’ve been to the mountain top, and I don’t mind.
“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’s 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.
“And so I’m happy tonight; I’m not worried about anything; I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
The next day, Dr King stood on the balcony of his hotel room, and was shot in his right cheek. The bullet broke his jaw, went through his spinal cord, and killed him.