PBS American Experience Series

Roads to Memphis: The Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr

About fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in front of his hotel room by James Earl Ray. King was fighting for the rights for sanitation workers as part of his mounting war against poverty in the United States. He believed a grand change in the economic landscape was necessary. James Earl Ray was one of the poverty-stricken people King was fighting for; yet, Ray saw his salvation through killing King. The documentary makes it clear that Ray believed society would reward him for the assassination. He sought fame and fortune with violence while King was trying to achieve his aims with non-violence. Ultimately, the documentary asks How long can peace persist in a nation plagued by the legacy of slavery? King accomplished a lot by bravely leading a movement for years; but Ray's single action created a setback for civil rights and enflamed racial tensions. Is it a sad truth a killer can be just as influential as the hero he killed?

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