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Monday, January 15, 2024

Living History

 I was an 18-year-old college freshman on April 4, 1968, the day Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. 

I remember the day clearly. Walking across campus, the first question I thought to ask my closest black friend was if he hated me. He answered by saying something about how angry he was at white people that day but that no, he did not hate me. I recall being relieved. I was so young, so naive and I so wanted to be liked. Where were you that day? Who in your life was hit hardest by King's death?  

Years later, when the talk started about establishing a holiday in King's honor, I have an even clearer recollection. I thought - How can this be? I was alive when King was. How is it possible his historic importance escaped me? Was it because I was young and so self-centered? Or, is it because his place in the grander scheme wouldn't have been part of the conversation in my white world?

Did you know you were living history if you were alive when Martin was? I did not.

p.s. Sitting at my laptop early this morning, intending to write a post to honor King to start the day, I decided to first search my archives to see how much I'd referenced him over the years. Right after reading the four brief paragraphs above, I concluded I could do no better honoring King at seventy-four than I'd first done at sixty-two. I'm proud standing by these same words - verbatim - and ask you now to consider - or re-consider - some or all of the questions I first posed on January 15,2012 when my blog was less than a year old.         


  1. Hello again, Pat. While I was 11 at the time Dr. King was assassinated, I don't have as clear a memory of that day as I do when President Kennedy was assassinated. And I was just 6 then. I do recall a lot of what occurred in 1968 but more of it seems to be from news articles I've read since that time as opposed to hearing/ seeing the events of that year/time as they happened. So, although, as you say that I was part of living history, I'm not so sure just being alive at that time counts. But ...
    Thanks for the post. Seems to me that there is a need to do more than remember not only Dr. King but other people and events more than just honoring them on these anniversaries. Turbulent times for sure. But also times that have left their marks. Hopefully for good more than the negative.
    Be well,

    1. Bob (#3); Of course I too remember 11/22/63. But somehow, King's murder resonated for me as a young adult in a way that makes the day of his shooting more vivid. Age? My awakening to social justice issues? My need to be understand what I'd missed when we lived?