Martyr’s gift: What Martin Luther King died for

Apr 4, 2014 by

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Fifty-six years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King was gunned down in Memphis, Tenn. In the Christian tradition, martyrs’ death days are their feast days, when we remember what they lived for by paying attention to what they died for.

Though King’s own organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was scrambling to plan its Poor People’s March on Washington, King went to Memphis to support the struggle for sanitation workers rights that his friend and nonviolent teacher, Jim Lawson, had helped to organize.

When staff objected, King pointed out that the sanitation workers’ struggle was the poor people’s struggle. Their could be no Poor People’s Campaign without following the lead of poor people demanding justice.

As we give thanks for King and his sacrifice today, here’s a short video that tells the story of the Memphis sanitation workers’ struggle.

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove directs the School for Conversion in Durham, N.C., and is the author of several books. Learn more at

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