4. april 1968 blev den amerikanske borgerretsforkæmper Martin Luther King skudt og dræbt, da han stod på en hotelbalkon i Memphis.

Martin Luther King myrdet for 50 år siden

Martin Luther King myrdet for 50 år siden.

King var mest kendt som forkæmper mod raceadskillelse og for lige rettigheder for alle mennesker uanset hudfarve i USA. Ikke mindst er hans tale “I have a dream”, som borgerretsforkæmperen holdt i Washington D.C. i 1963, blevet ikonisk og kendt over hele verden.

I 1950’erne og 60’erne var Martin Luther King ligeledes talsmand på flere andre fronter – bl.a. for de tusinder og atter tusinder af sorte sanitetsarbejdere, som arbejdede under kummerlige og farlige forhold i USA. Dette var inden fagforeningerne blev stærke i USA, og udover meget dårlige arbejdsforhold var arbejderne meget underbetalte.

Aftenen inden hans død talte Martin Luther King for sanitetsarbejdere i Memphis – se den rørende video på New York Times, hvor en af sanitetsarbejderne mindes hans store forbillede.

Ligeledes kæmpede King mod USA’s krig i Vietnam, og pga. de mange kampe mod autoriteterne og den amerikanske administration blev han en meget kontroversiel person i USA.

Se ligeledes New York Times hyldest til Martin Luther King på 50 års-dagen for hans død. Uddrag fra New York Times:

Martin Luther King Jr. remains frozen in time for many Americans. Seared into our consciousness is the man who battled Southern segregation.

We see him standing before hundreds of thousands of followers in the nation’s capital in 1963, proclaiming his dream for racial harmony. We see him marching, arms locked with fellow protesters, through the battleground of Alabama in 1965.

But on the 50th anniversary of his death, it is worth noting how his message and his priorities had evolved by the time he was shot on that balcony at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis in 1968. Dr. King was confronting many challenges that remain with us today.

He was battling racism in the North then, not just in the South. He was pushing the government to address poverty, income inequality, structural racism and segregation in cities like Boston and Chicago. He was also calling for an end to a war that was draining the national treasury of funds needed to finance a progressive domestic agenda.

This may not be the Dr. King that many remember. Yet, his words resonate powerfully – and, perhaps, uncomfortably – today in a country that remains deeply divided on issues of race and class.

“All the issues that he raised toward the end of his life are as contemporary now as they were then,” said Taylor Branch, the Pulitzer-Prize winning historian who has written several books about Dr. King.

What would Dr. King make of America today?

Historians believe he would marvel at the expansion of rights for women and the LGBTQ community, the growth of the black middle class and the number of black elected leaders, including America’s first black president.

He would also see a country beset by many of the problems he had urged Americans to focus on during the last years of his life.

“I think we should have listened to him then,” Mr. Branch said. “We really ought to listen to him now.”