I am reminded, by History.com, that today was the day that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Almost 50 years ago, and 12 years before I would even be born. It seems to be that people alive during the 1960s mourned when all were assassinated, from President John F. Kennedy, Medgar Evers, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, and Bobby Kennedy. The age of innocence, as it was called, was over. The decade was in turmoil. The nations hearts were in a continuous state of mourning. But, I wasn’t alive in the sixties. I don’t know what it felt like to hear the news of so and so’s murder. I know the history, but what really resonates all these years later are what these men said.
The two, for me, that hold up the strongest are Medgar Evers and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I remember first hearing about Medgar Evers and two things struck me. He was from Mississippi, which I like when people are from my state, so that made me happy. And that he was shot in the back in the driveway of his own home. Being shot, in and of its own is terrible, but in the back? That’s a cowards shot. You don’t shoot someone in the back!?! (Well, you don’t shoot someone at all, but that’s beside the point). So here was a fellow kindred spirit, to me, because we shared the same state. I would have wanted to know more about him just on that point, but definitely the way he went out, I felt it my duty to know more about him. His Assissination anniversary is coming up in June, so I’ll be talking about him as well.
The mans Civil Rights career saw him trying to overturn segregation and gain true equality for black people. He led the way in ending discrimination and racial injustices, whether through schools, shopping, or in the courts. He accomplished a lot in a very short amount of time, which is phenominally awesome. I have not been to the Medger Evers Home Museum. I rarely go to Jackson, but at some point I will see this. Though it’s sad and joyous at the same time. Sad because a man and his family made a lovely home here, but because of ignorance that happy family was shattered; the husband dead and the family moving away. And here is their once lovely home, immortalized in its sadness and tears. But, joyous too, because a great injustice has been preserved. This is a memorial for a man who made great strides and did great things in the name of equality. Here is where he fell. Here is his injustice, which will never be forgotten.
On a cold night in December I visited the town where Medgar Evers was born and raised. We were going to visit our grandmother for Christmas. Dad hadn’t retired yet, so still delivered food orders to conveinent stores. The guys had given dad directions to their house. We didn’t know where we were going just that dad was stopping off to settle an order on a roundabout way to grandma’s house. When we were almost there dad stated in hushed, sort of reverent tones, “This is Decatur. This is where Medgar Evers grew up.” My sister and I were wide-eyed and awwed. How spectacular. We pulled into a semi dark street on the outskirts of town, very rural. We stopped in front of a house and three very large black men came out to the car. My sister, dad, and I were at the trunk of the car. Everyone was pleasant. It was nice, though odd to be standing around in some town we didn’t know at 8 o’clock at night with strangers. They asked dad how he was doing, “Not good. My mamma’s been in the hospital and we’re going to see her.” which resulted in “Your mamma??” and all four men feeling sad, looking down at the ground, because they were all really five year old boys, disheartened at the thought of a mamma being ill or dying. We wished them a Happy Holidays and they us. They also told dad they hoped his mamma would be fine.
This right here is an excellent example of The South that I know. No matter how rural or how urbanized, I see a south where people are all just people. My dad doesn’t think twice about visiting strange black men in a rural town at night, nor does he think twice about bringing his family along. These guys, didn’t mind that dad would be showing up in their neighbourhood, at night, with his family. I just found the situation odd, because it’s not something that happens regularly; dad delivering at night to places he hasn’t been before, but odd in a really great way. Yet, so many people would find it to be an alarming situation. Why? What is this south you live in, because I want no part of it, if this would be an alarming situation for you? I personally thought it was extra wonderful that the entire odd scene took place in Medger Evers’ birth town. A man who strove for something so fervently; a something that was happening that late December night in the place where he was born and raised.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was the voice of the Civil Rights movement. His deliverance of words; his passion and calm fierceness stirred many people to their cores. He continues to do so to this day. Hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr deliver any speech in 1985 was a very moving experience for me. I’m sure his voice held as much power then as when the speeches were first delivered, and are still holding power to this day. The first time I heard him, my eyes glistened and I felt my whole being fill with happiness, purpose, pride. I didn’t really understand the words, not completely, but the power contained in them communicated the intentions to my four year old heart. I knew this was a great man. I knew these were great words; that the message was full of hope and wonder. That the old was bad, but this new would be great and worth the immense stir my spirit was feeling in that moment. He was not only a strong voice for a people, but a strong voice for the peoples. He united the group that he was, but also united humans, simply as humans. I remember feeling awe and great respect that day that I heard a recording of him deliving a speech and my awe and great respect has never swayed.
I’ve often thought on his death. In life, when people have sometime to say and their lives are cut short, their words stay. But if they live, more often than not, their words fade and do not have as great an impact; their lives do not have as great an impact. No one wants great people to die, but then everyone dies. I would have wanted Dr. King to continue to live and his family have him around. But I’ve often thought that if he had not have died; how he did, when he did, would his words or actions still matter today?
Of course I don’t want to offend anyone, this is purely an educational comparison, but take Jesus for instance. He had a lot to say, but if he had not gone out early, in the manner that he did, would anyone today care? I’d wager the answer would be a no. It’s not to say that Jesus wouldn’t have continued to talk and continued roaming and teaching, but his words; his life would be tucked away neatly only known to a few. You might hear in passing of a man who was great and did great things, but there would be no meaning to it. I think the same might be true for Dr. King. I don’t think his words would have lived on as strongly as they currently do if he had not have been cut down in his prime. But it is merely what-if’s and the way ones mind wanders on a point. I don’t like that he was murdered, but in the greater Universe of the workings of the world… was it meant to be?
Needless to say, on our trip to Memphis several years back I exclaimed that we were going to The Civil Rights Museum. It had been on my mental list of places to go for awhile. It is a wonderful museum, but it is also tragically terrible. Not that there shouldn’t be a museum to the Civil Rights Movement. There most assuredly should! Of course none of it was rainbows and unicorns so it’s going to hurt your heart to walk through all of that pain. But, I think everyone should walk it. Endure it for the few hours it takes to get through the museum. These are things people must know, recognize, see from a different perspective, or understand their own, personal perspective better. History should never been hidden away.
A peoples history that is filled with so much tragedy and pain should never be hidden away. Although it is a lot of pain in one museum. It is hundreds of years worth of pain that you have to feel in two hours. I’ll admit it made me quite ill. So, I think it is too much for one museum, considering one person will only feel one lifetimes worth of pain during their existance, no matter who they are. To feel ten lifetimes is too much all at once for any person. People have a recollection of pain from their ancestors, but they do not have to feel it in their lifetime. Anyways, that was my only complaint. The collection should be broken up, there should be several different museums.
This was the bitter-sweet moment. Wonderful that the room was preserved as a memorial to his honour and recreated to look exactly as it did the night that Dr. King died here. But so sad to know that this was the end. That he was in this room, walked out onto the balcony was shot through the side of face and lay there bleeding and was carried out of this room to death. I became verklempt, but did not cry because I do not cry in public. This was the reason I came here, to be as close to a memorial for Dr. King as one can get, and the experience left me bitterly sad and empty. I didn’t expect to be happy about it, but I also didn’t realize that I would feel such overwhelming heartache for a man who wasn’t even alive in my lifetime. But it did leave me with overwhelming heartbreak. It is a wonderful memorial, but that room is haunted by such grief. Grief expelled by the people staying there that night and the hundreds of people who have been there since.