Monday, March 30, 2009

MLK Assassination

The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 was so closely tied to the civil rights that were being fought for and then with the timing of the killings of JFK and RFK, the death of this progressive leader was a major historical element in America.   I looked at three articles in the NYT about the death of MLK.  One that was published right after his death 4/5/68 then another 4/23/68 and a third 6/9/68. 

The first had the headline: Dismay in Nation -- Negroes Urge Others to Carry on Spirit of Non-Violence.
This article quoted every major African American in America at the time.  NAACP, NUL, Jackie Robinson, a negro psychologist, a negro senator, as well as some other public notables such as Richard Nixon and the Gov. of Texas.
The article did a good job of getting lots of quotes and information into it but I was surprised to see that there were no details of the actual shooting or the investigation.  Even though there could have been other articles that covered the details it is odd that there was no mention of anything in the article. Also there were no quotes or information from the police or the King family.  It seems like that would be a logical addition more than Jackie Robinson.  
The second article: A Convict Says Ray Sought Bounty

This article starts to answer the questions of who could have killed King.  There was information from an inmate and police follow up.  I did feel that the article, like the first, lacked information about the shooting and how to get information to police.  The article came out relatively soon after the shooting and there weren't any new details released about autopsy or investigation or anything except the word of this inmate.  It is also lacking last known whereabouts of the suspect.  It was really just a blurb and left me with more questions than answers.

The third article was Guns and Assassins
This article pulls together the information on RFK, JFK, and MLK's killers and where they are in prosecution.  While it gives information as to how the police and courts are coming along in the trial process but don't quote the DA's or the families.  It is largely un-sourced information.

I was greatly surprised by the lack of information given in all three of these articles.  Even when most people would know a great deal about the event, there must have been a way for them to package the general info into the articles so that they all had more context -- especially for the NYT and their status as a historical publication.


  1. This was a very nice post to read.

    I agree with you that it was a bit strange in the first article to see that there was little mention about the event of the assassination, especially since it was written shortly after his death. It is a wonder why the reporter chose the approach he did by only getting quotes from the people he did, versus the people he didn’t get necessary information from that the public would have likely wanted to be informed about.

    I also find it interesting that the second article also has little mentioned of the assassination event, since it is in fact a story about the possibilities of who could have killed King in such a way. I do have a question about the second article you mention, though: what inmate do you speak of?

    It is definitely odd that these articles lacked so much information, but in a way it is kind of nice to see that someone brought them to light in this blog assignment. It somewhat shows the other side of the ways of reporting during the civil rights movement.

  2. i wonder if the reason the papers didnt mention much about his assassination was because they did not yet have all of the facts. they may not have wanted to state the way he died without being able to release any more information, due to lack of information.