Holy Week

Part 1: Rupture

A day at the crossroads of chance and destiny

Key Moments From Part 1

Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated

King is shot on the balcony of his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. He is pronounced dead within an hour.


Robert F. Kennedy announces King’s death

On the evening of April 4, 1968, Kennedy gives a speech announcing King’s assassination from his campaign trail in Indianapolis.

Americans learn of King’s death

That same evening, radio bulletins announcing the death of Martin Luther King Jr. reach listeners across the country.

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Host Vann R. Newkirk II seated next to a microphone
Pictured above:Host Vann R. Newkirk II

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Part 2: Inferno

The Black capital of the world catches fire

Key Moments From Part 2

Stokley Carmichael forms an SNCC base in D.C.

In January 1968, three months before King’s assassination, Kwame Ture, then known as Stokely Carmichael, moves to Washington, D.C., to build a power base for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).


D.C. residents learn about King’s assassination

A couple of hours after King’s assassination, Carmichael and his SNCC comrades ask businesses in D.C.’s U Street corridor to close. Carmichael attracts a growing crowd.

D.C. residents begin to riot

Around 9:30 p.m. on April 4, the first glass is broken in Washington, D.C.—the window of the Peoples Drug Store at the intersection of U Street and 14th Street.

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Part 3: Black Messiah

Who will rise next?

Key Moments From Part 3

Stokely Carmichael demands “Black Power”

At a speech during the “March Against Fear” in Mississippi, on June 16, 1966, Carmichael uses the phrase Black Power.


The FBI sets counterintelligence goals

A month before King’s assassination, on March 4, 1968, the FBI, led by J. Edgar Hoover, issues a memo cautioning against allowing King to become a “messiah.”


Howard University students react to King’s assassination

The morning after King’s assassination, D.C. students walk out of class en masse. Howard University’s newspaper, The Hilltop, publishes an editorial criticizing nonviolence as a path to liberation.

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Part 4: Overcome

In Memphis, the Movement faces a reckoning

Key Moments From Part 4

The Black Power group called the Invaders is created

The Black Organizing Project is founded in Memphis in 1967. Soon, some members begin calling themselves the Invaders.


Sanitation workers strike in Memphis

Two months before King’s assassination, sanitation workers in Memphis begin to strike. King later promises to join a protest march through the city for the workers.

King joins sanitation workers’ march

One week before King’s assassination, he travels to Memphis to lead the sanitation workers’ march, which is marred by bursts of violence. Memphis police kill 16-year-old Larry Payne.

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Part 5: Prophecy

Leaders hope to stop that which had been foretold

Key Moments From Part 5

The “long hot summer” erupts

Riots take place in dozens of cities in America during the summer of 1967. President Lyndon B. Johnson establishes the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, nicknamed the Kerner Commission, to investigate the causes of the civil unrest.


The day after King is assassinated, riots unfold across the country

Less than 24 hours after King’s assassination, reports of fires and rioting emerge in dozens of cities across America, including Chicago, Buffalo, Boston, Detroit, and San Francisco.

Police around D.C. take aim

Two days after King’s assassination, police from Prince George’s County, Maryland, train rifles on D.C. protesters near the city border, with shoot-to-kill orders for crossing the line.

The National Guard is called in

Maryland Governor Spiro T. Agnew requests that federal troops be deployed to Baltimore on April 7, three days after King’s assassination. The president authorizes Agnew’s request.

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Part 6: Kingdom

On Palm Sunday, Black D.C. wakes up to a broken dream

Key People From Part 6

Taquiena Boston

a 13-year-old from Washington, D.C., receives a diary from her mother for Christmas in 1967. She begins journaling about her life, and includes her observations about King’s assassination and the days that followed.

Roland Smith

a 22-year-old student at Bowie State, in Maryland, is arrested the day of King’s assassination while leading student protesters at the Maryland capitol.


John Burl Smith

One day before King’s funeral, on April 8, John Burl Smith serves as a marshal for a silent march held in King’s memory in Memphis, Tennessee.

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Part 7: Covenant

A settlement in ashes

Key Moments From Part 7

In 1966, Spiro T. Agnew is elected governor

Agnew, campaigning as a moderate Republican, is elected governor of Maryland, defeating George P. Mahoney, a segregationist. In his campaign, Agnew championed antidiscrimination policies.


King’s funeral takes place in Atlanta, Georgia, on April 9, 1968

President Johnson does not attend.

The Fair Housing Act is passed

The FHA passes the House of Representatives on April 11, 1968, with a vote of 250–172, after being stalled in the legislature since 1966.

Governor Agnew blames civil-rights leaders

Agnew holds a press conference on April 11, 1968, a week after King was assassinated. He invites notable civil-rights leaders and then blames them for the violence in Baltimore.

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Part 8: Resurrection

Whoever believes in him shall not perish

Key Moments From Part 8

The Poor People’s Campaign and Reverend Ralph Abernathy march

In May 1968, more than a month after King’s assassination, the Poor People’s Campaign, a movement created in response to economic inequities, march in Washington, D.C.


Robert F. Kennedy is assassinated

Kennedy, a senator representing New York and the Democratic presidential candidate, is shot and killed by Sirhan Sirhan in Los Angeles on June 6, 1968, after winning the California presidential primary.

Richard Nixon is elected president

Republican Richard Nixon is elected president of the United States on November 5, 1968. Maryland Governor Spiro T. Agnew is elected vice president.


Black Panther Fred Hampton is killed

On December 4, 1969, law-enforcement officers—with FBI support—kill the Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in his sleep.

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  • Vann R. Newkirk II
Executive Producer
  • Claudine Ebeid
Sound Designer and Mix Engineer
  • David Herman
Senior Producer
  • Jocelyn Frank
Producer / Reporter
  • Ethan Brooks
  • Scott Stossel
Managing Editor
  • Andrea Valdez
  • Julius Eastman Vol. 1: Femenine
  • Julius Eastman Vol. 2: Joy Boy
  • performed by Wild Up
Production Support
  • Kevin Townsend
  • A.C. Valdez
Fact Checking
  • Michelle Ciarrocca
  • Ena Alvarado
Audience & Engagement
  • Mary Stachyra Lopez
Art Direction
  • Caroline Smith
  • Paul Spella
Product, Product Design, and Engineering
  • Karen Bowers
  • Han Castanedo
  • Christopher Chester
  • Frankie Dintino
  • Deb Felsenthal
  • Erica Irving
  • Kevin Mahoney
  • Dante Meick
  • Dylan Momplaisir
  • Lauren Olasov
  • Felton Vaughn
Editorial Advisers
  • Jeffrey Goldberg
  • Adrienne LaFrance
Special Thanks
  • Juandalynn Abernathy, Robert Birt, Taquiena Boston, Theophus Brooks, Joseph Califano, Colin “Topper” Carew, Vanessa Lawson Dixon, Barbara Flemming, Tony Gittens, Tom Johnson, Larry Levinson, Matthew Nimetz, Frank Smith, John Burl Smith, Roland B. Smith Jr.
  • Special thanks to Donzaleigh Abernathy, Virginia Ali, Ewart Brown, Earl Caldwell, Connie Dyson, Jeff Flaherty, Adrienne Manns Israel, Susanne Jackson, Edward P. Jones, Bernard Lafayette, Larry Linville, Steve Novosel, Devon Wilford-Said, Calvin Taylor, Dr. Noelle Trent, Anasa Troutman, Allison Springfield, Fred Wesley, and the family of Irving Phillips, Jr. This project is dedicated to the family and memory of Myles Poydras
  • Theo Balcolmb, Nicole Blackwood, Anna Bross, Krystal Eldridge, Emily Gottschalk-Marconi, Paul Jackson, Coralie Jean-Philippe, Alexa Kiffel, Ashley Larkin, David McManus, Eda Metaliaj, Karen Ostergren, Allison Prevatt, Becca Rashid, Zoe Robinson, Carson Trobich, Aldana Vales
Archival Credits
  • Library of American Broadcasting, NBC, CBS News, CBS documentary, CBS Radio, Westinghouse, Rhodes College Digital Archive, The Memphis Search for Meaning Project, WREC, WMC TV, WHQB TV, WMPS, Paley Center, United Press International Radio Network, ABC, KQED, National Archives, HBO/Kundhart Films, New York Public Media, NPR, Indiana University/Telling it Like it Was Black Radio, Blackside Inc., CSPAN, ABC News, Dallas County Schools, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting, WMAR-TV, University of Baltimore, Special Collections & Archives, Library of Congress, PBS Wisconsin
Book Credits
  • Nation on Fire by Clay Risen
  • Ten Blocks from the White House by Ben W. Gilbert
  • The Great Uprising by Peter B. Levy
  • Going Down Jericho Road by Michael K. Honey
Photo Credits
  • Bettmann/Getty, Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty, Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis/Getty, NBC News Archives/Getty, Nexstar–WGN Chicago/Getty, Glasshouse Images/Alamy, SBS Eclectic Images/Alamy, Michael Ochs Archives/Getty, Alpha Stock/Alamy, Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty, Wally McNamee/Corbis/Getty, Courtesy of the D.C. Public Library/Washington Star Collection/Washington Post, Memphis Press-Scimitar, Wikimedia, VCG Wilson/Bettmann/Getty, Three Lions/Hulton Archive /Getty, Rolls Press/Popperfoto/Getty, Nexstar–KTLA Los Angeles, Paul Hutchins/Baltimore Sun, Lloyd Pearson/Baltimore Sun, Dennis Brack/Alamy, Archive Photos/Getty, Archive Films–Editorial/Getty, Bev Grant/Getty, James L. Amos/Corbis/Getty, Michael Evans/New York Times/Getty, BBC Archive/Getty, Robert Landau/Alamy, Graphic House/Hulton Archive/Getty, ESK/AP