The Riots That Followed the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Fifty years ago today, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I've Been to the Mountaintop” speech in Memphis, Tennessee, one day before his assassination. King’s Memphis speech focused on the ongoing sanitation workers’ strike, and he reaffirmed his commitment to fight injustice with nonviolent protest, despite government injunctions and threats on his life. King stated he just wanted to carry out 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.” As the news of King’s assassination spread, riots broke out in more than 100 cities across the United States, with some raging for several days. In the week following the shooting in Memphis, hundreds of buildings were burned, thousands of arrests were made, and more than 40 people lost their lives.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Win McNamee / Getty

    American Protest: Images From the Past 24 Hours

    Photos of demonstrations in nearly two dozen cities—a snapshot from the seventh day of a nationwide protest movement

  • Niklas Halle'N / AFP / Getty

    Photos: The Works of Christo

    With the passing of artist Christo, yesterday, at the age of 84, a look back at some of the enormous installations created by Christo and his wife and partner Jeanne-Claude.

  • Charlie Riedel / AP

    Missouri: Images of the Show Me State

    A few glimpses of Missouri’s landscape, and some of the animals and people calling it home

  • John Minchillo / AP

    Fire and Protests in the Twin Cities

    A third day of protests took place yesterday in Minneapolis and St. Paul, over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, after an officer kneeled on his neck and ignored his pleas that he couldn’t breathe.