For the interview, start from 2:12
“The death of Martin Luther King. I remember that well too. That was 1968, I think. Those were interesting times, you know, about all the civil rights movement.” 2:14-2:47
I interviewed my grandfather about many things, but the most interesting topic was when he began to talk about civil rights. When prompted about a historical event that he could remember, the first moon landing in 1969. Then he moved onto the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. This brought on a discussion about civil rights. My grandfather outlined the world of how things were separated. Blacks with blacks, whites with whites. Two separate worlds. For my grandfather, thats the way it simply was.
For background on the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, it was on April 4th 1968. Dr. King was shot outside his hotel room in Memphis Tennessee. He was shot by an man called James Earl Ray. James Earl Ray was the oldest of nine children. James’ early life was marred by tragic events. His sister was killed by accidentally lighting herself on fire while playing with matches. His family was also relocated after the police began to look for Rays father on a forgery charge. In his later life, he robbed two grocery stores, while on parole, and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He somehow escaped in 1967.
But on April 4th, 1968, James stood in a bathtub in his rented room in a hotel in memphis, balancing a shotgun. He shot Dr. King and then fled, which led to one of the most monumental searches from the FBI and spanned 5 countries.
My Grandfather also talked about a civil rights activist by the name of John Daniels. My grandfather graduated from VMI and went to School with Mr. Daniels. After graduating from VMI, as valedictorian, John Daniels was called to the ministry. Jonathan made his way down south, where he was arrested during a demonstration. After being released, John and a priest along with two black teenager girls, went to get sodas in Hayneville. The part time sheriff, stood on the steps with his shotgun, preventing them from entering. The sheriff pointed the gun at one of the teenagers, and Jonathan pushed her out of the way and was shot. He was killed instantly.
“They had their own world and we had our own world. It was different. I never really thought about it. It was just sort of accepted that thats the way it was. There didn’t seem to be any problem, not for me or [laughs] not for me. It didn’t seem to be a problem for them, because you just never really thought about it, it just wasn’t something you thought.” 5:16-5:47
My grandfather talked about how he wasn’t really affected by Jonathan’s death because most people thought he was just going down south to stir up trouble. It seems that back in those days, people turned a blind eye. My grandfather referred to segregation as “something you just didn’t really think about.” It is completely bewildering that white society had been so ignorant and self involved. I am glad that times have changed, even though there is a long way to go until Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream speech” is complete, America is closer than we were on that day in 1968.