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Martin Luther King, Jr.


Assassination and Legacy

Summary Assassination and Legacy

But King's death did not prevent the realization of his planned protests. Thousands of supporters came from miles around, flooding Memphis and making the sanitation workers' strike a success. That summer, the Poor People's March took place without King, though on a smaller scale than he had imagined. The SCLC and Coretta Scott King continued much of what King had begun.

But King's major legacy was the pieces of federal legislation passed in 1964 and 1965. In his final years, King had failed somewhat to engage the broad-based support he had earlier enjoyed: while the Christian socialist vision of his later period proved too radical to affect white mainstream Americans, his non- violent tactics had remained too peaceful to satisfy the rising tide of black militancy. However, the fact remained that King, more than any other leader, had been responsible for both the abstract and the concrete achievements of the Civil Rights Movement. King had dreamed and had acted.

Amercian minorities enjoyed an initial flurry of political empowerment in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 began to affect local elections. However, after this progress started to slow, and has remained comparatively sluggish. The "white flight" from cities to suburbs has left behind decaying neighborhoods with weak tax bases and de facto segregated schools. Affirmative action programs have come under attack, especially by right-wing politicians. Celebrations of King often downplay his radical economic vision while highlighting his moments of upbeat–and unthreatening– liberal rhetoric. The irony of his treatment as a national hero was perhaps most evident in the establishment of the holiday honoring him–effected as it was by the staunchly anti-communist Reagan Administration.

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