“The Lord called me into life and He will call me into death,” Martin
Luther King, Jr., told The New Yorker, in August, 1967. King was in
his office, in the Sunday-school annex of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist
Church. “I’ve known the fear of dying,” he said. “I lived with that fear
in Montgomery and in Birmingham.” He reached for his Bible, then read
from II Timothy: “ ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished my
course, I have kept the faith.’ ”
King was assassinated the following year—fifty years ago today, on April
4, 1968. “John Kennedy’s death came like lightning from a clear sky. Dr.
King’s was something that for a long time we’d been hoping wouldn’t
happen,” Jacob R. Brackman, Terrence Malick, and Renata Adler
the magazine’s Comment section. The writers describe sitting in the
office, late at night, watching television coverage of the assassination
and its aftermath; they felt sadness, fear, and despair. They also
relate how, on the Sunday afterward—Palm Sunday—a vast and quiet crowd
marched from 145th Street toward Central Park. After the assassination,
it had begun to seem “that the course of events would again be
determined by that diffuse community of the deranged.” But, watching the
crowd, it became possible to hope for the opposite: “Dr. King’s people,
of both races, were assembling again from everywhere, to resume where
they left off.”
Below, you’ll find a collection of articles on King’s life, death, and
work. Like the Palm Sunday march, they suggest that King’s legacy is not
static. Five decades later, it continues to deepen and unfold.
by Renata Adler (April 10, 1965): On the march from Selma to Montgomery,
Comment, by Jacob R. Brackman, Terrence Malick, and Renata Adler (April 13,
1968): On the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
by David Levering Lewis (January 23, 2006): On King’s relationship with
“Back on the
Calvin Trillin (July 25, 2011): On the Freedom Riders.
“The Color of
by Louis Menand (July 8, 2013): On the history of the Voting Rights Act.
Steve Schapiro (December 22 29, 2014 ): Photographs of the Selma
“Martin Luther King Day with
by Jelani Cobb (January 16, 2017): On the fate of King’s principles in
the Trump era.