The links below will take readers to the texts of two historic speeches delivered in Memphis in April 1968.
One is the final speech of Martin Luther King Jr., his memorable “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, delivered April 3, 1968, the night before he died. In it he lays out his vision of struggles for justice through the ages and across racial boundaries, beginning with the Israelite Exodus from Egyptian slavery.
The other is the impassioned public elegy delivered on April 5, the day after King’s death, by Rabbi James A. Wax of Temple Israel, president of the Memphis Ministers’ Association, minutes after the rabbi’s fiery confrontation with the city’s mayor, Henry Loeb III. In it Wax offers a soaring tribute to King the prophet, places his teachings in the arc of Jewish and Christian tradition and denounces the shame of white Memphis and America.
The 39th anniversary of King’s death falls this year on the second day of Passover, coinciding with the second Seder. We offer these texts in the hope that some readers will wish to incorporate some of their words into this year’s celebration of the festival of freedom.