Most of Dr. King'sPeople Never Did Get There
by BAR Executive Editor Glen Ford
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. – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in Memphis, April 3, 1968 – the eve of his assassination.
Dr. King wasn’t talking about civil rights or voting rights legislation when he gave the last speech of his life, that rainy night in Memphis. With the exception of the Fair Housing Act then awaiting action on Capitol Hill, the legislative demolition of Jim Crow was already complete. (Lyndon Johnson pushed the bill through Congress a week after the assassination as a kind of memorial to King.) So, what was that metaphorical “promised land” that King saw from the mountaintop, and how many Black folks have managed to “get there” in the 37 years since his death?