On April 3, 1968, the night before he was murdered, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke before a rapturous crowd in a packed church in Memphis, Tennessee. The speech, "I've Been to the Mountaintop," is one of the most quoted in the famed preacher's career.
In the roughly 43-minute address, an exhausted, under-the-weather King — he initially had asked his friend, the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy, to fill in for him, but later relented — covered many of the topics that had made him the foremost civil rights figure of the time. But it's the way King wrapped up his speech that is perhaps best known now, more than 50 years after his death.
King, who had traveled from his home in Atlanta earlier in the day to support sanitation workers involved in a bitter strike against the city, finished his speech to the crowd at the Mason Temple Church of God in Christ like this:
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And 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.
He concluded in a crescendo: "And so I'm happy tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."
Did Martin Luther King Jr. know his assassination was imminent? That's one of a myriad of questions that have flourished in the years since King's murder, a death that now sometimes threatens to overshadow the civil rights icon's considerable legacy.