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In last speech, Martin Luther King Jr. 'not concerned' about early death

Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated 43 years ago today. In his last sermon, the civil rights leader predicted that African-Americans would get to 'the promised land,' though he acknowledged 'I may not get there with you.'

Martin Luther King Jr.'s final sermon
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Forty-three years ago Monday, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn. He was there to support a garbage collectors' strike, and on the night before his death gave what would be his final sermon. Amid the call for for African-Americans to boycott businesses that mistreated workers, he delivered a sermon, without notes, that focused on his life and disavowed any concern that he might be killed for his role in the fight for civil rights.

"Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now,” the Rev. Mr. King said that evening. “I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”

Now known as "I've Been to the Mountaintop,” the sermon was called King's "most apocalyptic" by King scholar James Washington. It was not the first time King had spoken publicly about his possible early death, though those close to him say King certainly did not expect the April 3 sermon to be his last.

"He always knew some speech would be his last," wrote Andrew Young, who was with King in Memphis. "Was he afraid? Not on your life!"


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