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who were just starting their school years at the time

Time:2018-04-04 03:38Shoes websites Click:

KING luther Martin about lesson

There are a ton of measures available when you want to demonstrate how young and awkward America really is when looked at in the group photo of human civilization.

I recently blew the minds of a group of 18-year-olds when revealing that when both of my grandmothers were born, women did not have the right to vote in the United States.

To extend that farther back in time, for those of us who have reached middle age, our grandparents had grandparents who were born before the Civil War. And those ancestors who were alive when slavery was encoded in our Constitution had grandparents who predated the Revolution.

This week in 2018 arrives with another thought-bending marker: It has been 50 years since a famous man who called for peace in America was taken in an act of violence. Let us discuss and hopefully not argue about how far we have or have not come since April 4, 1968.

The observance of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's assassination finds me looking back to a spring afternoon 13 years ago, when my family visited the National Civil Rights Museum on the final day of a whirlwind visit to Memphis, Tenn.

We spent two humid days in what they call the Mid-South, touring Elvis Presley's remarkably small but still outlandish Graceland and eating pulled-pork sandwiches at the Rum Boogie Cafe on Beale Street. Our final stop before heading back north was the aforementioned museum, which was built just south of downtown Memphis on the site of — and incorporating the structure of — the infamous Lorraine Motel.

50 years ago, Chicago’s West Side burned after MLK’s death. Some neighborhoods never recovered.

Tony Briscoe and Ese Olumhense

Tony Briscoe and Ese Olumhense

As seen this week on a dozen different retrospectives, the Lorraine Motel was where King and his colleagues were settled in and making plans for dinner when James Earl Ray and a single .30-caliber, metal-jacketed bullet from his Remington Model 760 Gamemaster ended King's life and etched a permanent chapter of shame in American history books.

The museum that rose around that tragedy is an attempt to create something progressive and instructive out of that dark moment. I recall our visit there as being a quiet but vivid education for not only my daughters, who were just starting their school years at the time, but for my wife and I, who are fans of history, even when the lessons are uncomfortable.

More than anything, I remember standing in the parking lot below Room 306 and glancing across the street to the boardinghouse where Ray fired his shot. I was reminded of visiting Dealey Plaza in Dallas and being stunned at how far but small the distance can be between shooter and victim.

But I also recall a lesson about tiny gaps in the march of time, as illustrated in something I wrote after returning to my desk the following week:

"It was another warm afternoon, but it was bone-chilling to look up at the iron-railed balcony where King fell, as seen in those timeless images taken seconds after the fact, we learned, by a documentary photographer staying a few doors down.

"We spent a good two hours in and around the museum, reading up on America's troubled history dealing with the self-inflicted wounds of slavery and racism. At one point, we climbed aboard a bus with a statue of Rosa Parks and listened as the loudspeakers ordered us to give up our seats and move to the back.

"My daughters looked scared out of their shoes, and my youngest moved to the back without thinking. We talked about it later, and she said she was glad 'I didn't live in the old days.' I told her Martin Luther King was killed when I was 2 years old."

I am, obviously, older now than I was then, if not ancient. The reassurance you get from being on the other side of 50 and being able to function is sometimes dimmed by the nagging thought that the last half-century didn't deliver all the promises that it should have.

There are realities that provide comfort. My children have grown up with blood relatives born to parents who — up to and including in the year of my birth in more than a dozen states — would not have been allowed to marry due to the historical stain of anti-miscegenation laws. This fact reminds me that my generation did do some of the heavy lifting required to move us forward.

But as with so many other things, the 50 years since the King assassination are another reminder that our kids are going to have to not only help us pull the rope of progress but eventually take over. Maybe they'll get it right.

danmoran@tribpub

Twitter @NewsSunDanMoran

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