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A day that changed Black America
*This date marks the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.
He was shot to death at the Loraine motel in Memphis, TN. He was there to support striking Black garbage workers. News of the assassination resulted in an outpouring of sorrow and anger all over the world. Riots broke out in more than 100 American cities.
In 1969, James Earl Ray plead guilty to the murder, though many believe he did not act alone. Johnton Shelby, whose mother, Lula Mae Shelby, had been a surgical aide at St. Joseph’s that night. Shelby told Dr. William Pepper the story of how his mother came home the morning after the shooting (she hadn’t been allowed to go home the night before) and gathered the family together. He remembers her saying to them, “I can’t believe they took his life.” Pepper, a respected civil rights attorney spent 40 years investigating King’s murder.
She described chief of surgery Dr. Breen Bland entering the emergency room with two men in suits. Seeing doctors working on King, Bland commanded, “Stop working on the nigger and let him die! Now, all of you get out of here, right now. Everybody get out.” Before leaving the operating room, Mrs. Shelby said she saw the two men remove the breathing tube from King’s throat and Dr. Bland place a pillow over King’s face.
The Encyclopedia Britannica,
Fifteenth Edition. Copyright 1996
Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.