It was a moment of dismay for the entire country. A moment people felt insurmountable loss and bewilderment, and whose shock can still be felt today. When news spread that Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed in Memphis on April 4, 1968, many of his aides and other contemporaries spoke out about the dangerous racial narrative that existed in America at the time.
In this video, the Smithsonian Channel captures their reaction to what happened to their leader in the march to equality that night. Two of them Rev. Jesse Jackson and Andrew Young, were with King at the moment he was assassinated and the shock can be heard in their voices. Robert F. Kennedy, who was U.S. Attorney General at the time informs a crowd he was addressing as they shriek in terror.
The killing, some 49 years ago, was one of several through the 1960s, including Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy and ultimately Robert Kennedy, that marked the tumult of that decade. Click play above to hear the reactions to King’s death.