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Writing Prompt: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Assassination

Fifty years ago last Wednesday, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Do you remember where you were? Do you remember what you were doing? Who was with you?

Does that moment live with you in any meaningful way? Do you have any memories associated with him and his work?

Historical events like that can jog your memory and bring you back to a moment in time. Remembering an event, you start to remember what you were wearing, a meal you were eating, who you were with when you heard the news, and you are off and writing, using language full of detail and sensual description. That’s why timelines can be a useful tool for writing.

On May 7, I’ll be giving my free Timelines workshop at Seminole County Public Library’s Casselberry Branch from 2:00-3:00 p.m. There, I’ll elaborate on my use of timelines. If this idea intrigues you, and you are able to come, I’d love to see you there.

Until then, the date was April 4, 1968, on the timeline. Where were you? Were you born yet? If not, did your parents ever tell you anything about their experience of that event? How has Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and death made ripples into your life? Write about that, then share your memories in the comments section below. Try to put me in that place in time.

photo credit: PINGNews


1 Comment

  • BeverlyBailey
    Posted April 7, 2018 at 11:58 am

    My husband and I had completed our plans to move to Florida in April of 1968. We were moving from Birmingham where Larry was born and grew up and where I had graduated from Samford University and was teaching ninth graders at Homewood Junior High.

    Though I was saddened by Dr. Martin Luther King’s death, I was hoping, along with everyone in Birmingham, that the days of the riots and bombings were coming to an end. The deaths of four little girls in 16th Street Baptist Church in the city still haunted everyone.

    In 1963, Dr. King was in Birmingham where he was protesting the treatment of blacks there. A court ordered that he could not hold protests in Birmingham—and his protests—nonviolent civil disobedience—were peaceful. He insisted that they be. But he was arrested and put in jail. While in jail, he wrote his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” to clergymen on bits and pieces of paper, which he secretly gave to his lawyers. Nothing else was available to write on.

    Fast forward to 1993. I’m a college professor, teaching freshmen students composition. One of the readings in the required text we used was this by-now famous and moving letter from Dr. King. I taught it every semester until I retired in 2008. I consider it one of the greatest documents ever written. It is both filled with logos and pathos—and truth. Here are a few of my favorite sentences:

    “Beyond this, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the eighth-century prophets left their little villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their hometowns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Greco-Roman world, I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my hometown. ”

    “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. ”

    “Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must see the need of having nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men to rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.”

    “An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.”

    “But as I continued to think about the matter, I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction from being considered an extremist. Was not Jesus an extremist in love? — “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.”

    And the list goes on. King was a remarkable and inspiring man. His words and message are still applicable in today’s climate, even more so.

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