AD 1968- Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinated

The 1960’s were a challenging time for the United States. Embroiled in the Vietnam War, the Space Race, and the Cold War, the United States was also reeling from social unrest. The Civil Rights Movement, which had begun the 1950’s had reached full swing, and there were riots, protests, and violence in the streets in many Southern states. Although many civil rights leaders advocated peaceful resistance (most notably Martin Luther King, Jr.), the idea of civil rights and equal integration into society was anathema to many Southern whites. On April 4, 1968, King was assassinated at his motel in Memphis, Tennessee by an escaped convict named James Earl Ray. King’s death was a setback for the Civil Rights Movement as it created a vacuum in the power structure of the movement, one that was filled by leaders with much more extreme and violent methods of securing civil rights. The elevation of these leaders meant that the Civil Rights Movement of the 1970’s would be significantly more violent and focused on revenge rather than growth. However, King’s death was not simply a loss for the Civil Rights Movement, but for America as a whole because he had been a remarkable leader and statesman, who likely would have persuaded Congress to pass equal rights legislation—something that was set back years due to his untimely death.