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On the Anniversary of Dr. King's Assassination, Stand Up For Economic Equality On the Anniversary of Dr. King's Assassination, Stand Up For Economic Equality

On the Anniversary of Dr. King's Assassination, Stand Up For Economic Equality

by Liz Dwyer

April 5, 2011

On April 4, 1968, 43 years ago today, Civil Rights Movement leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was tragically assassinated while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. He was 39 years old.

Far from the sanitized version of his life currently taught to America's school children, King was genuine, full-scale agitator—leading marches, supporting strikes and nonviolently demanding racial and economic equality for all Americans. He'd headed to Memphis to help the city's sanitation workers fight for the right to collectively bargain. ­On April 3, the day before his assassination, King delivered his last public speech, "I've Been to the Mountaintop", in support of those striking workers, saying,

All we say to America is, "Be true to what you said on paper." If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn't committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of the press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right.
Four decades later, given our modern extremes of wealth and poverty, King's fight for economic equality is still relevant. And, America's public employees, especially those in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio, are still fighting for the right to negotiate their wages and working conditions. A national day of solidarity for those public employees is happening today across the country. King's call for fearlessness voiced in his famous last public words will surely inspire modern protesters fighting for what's fair and right.
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