Indianapolis Commemorates MLK 50 With John Lewis and Kerry Kennedy

Wednesday, April 4, 2018, marked the 50-year anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  

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On April 4th, 1968, King was in Memphis, Tennessee, organizing on behalf of sanitation workers. He was staying at the Lorraine Motel. It was there he was fatally shot by James Earl Ray at 6:01 p.m. Predictably, riots and civil unrest ensued in more than 100 American cities.

This is where Indianapolis comes into the story. Indianapolis, unlike most American metropolitan areas, was largely spared from the civil unrest due in large part to a speech given by then-presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy. Kennedy, who was no stranger to assassinations, gave a moving speech that pacified the crowd.

The speech became the inspiration for a statue honoring both Dr. King and Robert Kennedy, who would fall victim to assassination only a few months later.  

Wednesday the city of Indianapolis gathered at the site of the speech to commemorate the anniversary of King’s assassination and the famous speech given afterward. The memorial featured representative John Lewis, who was on hand, as young staffer for Robert Kennedy’s campaign for the actual speech 50 years ago, and the daughter of Robert Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy.

For John Lewis, this was actually the first time he had been back to the park since that day.

“This is hard. This is tough for me to come back here,” Lewis said to the crowd. “I lost a friend. I lost a big brother. I lost my leader. If it hadn’t been for Martin Luther King, Jr., I don’t know what would have happened to our nation.”

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Kerry Kennedy reflected on her father’s legacy.

"Daddy spoke from his heart," Kennedy said. "He appealed to our country to end the divisions. He said what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness but love and a sense of compassion towards those who are suffering, whether they be white or whether they be black."

Throughout the day, Hoosiers reflected at the site. Many left flowers and took pictures next to the King-Kennedy memorial.

Watch the national coverage and John Lewis’s speech here. (CBS News)

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Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.