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Why was Martin Luther King Jr. Assassinated?


When a tragedy happens, the hardest question to answer can be ‘why?’  Why did this happen? In this excerpt from  “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?”  Larry Hamm discusses the economical factors he believes led to Martin Luther King Jr. being assassinated. It is suggested he was assassinated for two main reasons, both fundamentally economic. 

First, he opposed the war in Vietnam. He had wrestled with opposing it. He must have been thinking about it for a very long time because he had people pushing him. Folks like Stokely Carmichael later on known as Kwame Toure, and a lot of the people from The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) as early as 1963. John Lewis spoke at the same march that Dr. King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. John Lewis was planning to speak about Vietnam, however, they removed Vietnam from his speech. The SNCC people had been pressing Dr. King and ultimately he gave the speech that people refer to it as the “I opposed the war in Vietnam” speech however its real title is “A Time to Break the Silence.” He had been part of an arrangement not to discuss the war and President Johnson, in return, would get the civil rights bill through. However, as a man of conscience, he had to speak. Inevitably he needed to break that silence. 

The second factor was the Poor People’s Campaign. In his book “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” Dr. King shared that his goal was to bring a million individuals to Washington DC to participate in large nonviolent protests. The end goal was to get Congress to pass an economic Bill of Rights securing a living wage for all, an assured income, education for all, and universal healthcare.  All of these factors became part of his economic Bill of Rights in 1968.  


As a result of his opposition to the war in Vietnam and the Poor People’s Campaign, People wanted to kill him. It wasn’t simply the one effort, there were several attempts to kill Dr. King. They feared King because they thought that he could be the one that might not just unify the black movement, but bring the black movement and the anti-war movement with each other resulting in a type of people’s rainbow coalition that would lead a movement to transform the system.

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