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American Radioworks: King's Last March
American Radioworks: King's Last March

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AIR DATE: January 19, 2011

On April 4th, 1967 Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a landmark speech from the pulpit of Riverside Church in New York. He called for an end to the Vietnam War. Exactly one year later, King was assassinated in Memphis. He was 39 years old. King's speech in New York set the tone for the last year of his life. Inside the church, he was hailed for his brave, outspoken stance against the war. Outside the church, he was roundly condemned - by the mainstream press, by other civil rights activists and, most decidedly, by President Lyndon Johnson.

This documentary traces the final year of King's life. It was one of the most challenging and controversial chapters of the civil rights leader's career, yet it has not been the focus of significant public attention. For many, the image of King is of a social and political leader at the height of his powers - especially the period up through 1965.But that's not the way he was viewed in the last year of his life.

This program illuminates the profound personal, psychological and philosophical challenges King faced in his last year. In this time, King tried to gain support for his Poor People's Campaign, fended off fierce critics inside and outside the civil rights movement, and endured an increasing sense of despair and isolation. King's Last March offers listeners a complex view of a man trying to push his philosophy of non-violence to a conclusion many people found more threatening than the dream he described on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial five years before his death.

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