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Where were you when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968? The Aftermath of the Chicago Riots

Updated on August 28, 2012

The initial reaction

There was a time in the history of my life that I can all too well remember. That day has stuck in my mind all these years and I still tell my children of that vivid memory.

It was April 4, 1968, my fourth birthday. All I can remember was that I heard on the television that someone had been killed. At that time in my life of course, I did not fully understand what had taken place. But I heard my mother talking about someone by the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot dead. As I watched the television, I saw images of people crying, and police cars rolling up and down the street. Two days went by and I heard my mother saying that the buildings were being set on fire and that people were out in the streets looting the stores. She also said that the police were out in full force trying stop the people from stealing from the various businesses.

I was also shocked at all the violence that was going on. The police were using dogs as weapons to attack people. The firemen were using fire hoses to clear the streets from looters. I did hear that the mayor had instructed the police to shoot down any criminals that were causing any damage to city property. What a time of civil unrest in our community!!

I remember that while all this was going on, the lights in our apartment had went out. In fact, the whole neighborhood was in total darkness. All you could see was the headlights from the cars. This was an extremely scary time for me and my three older sisters. My mother somehow was able to get home from work to get us. She asked one of her friends to drive us to our grandmother's house. I tell you, I never had seen such chaos in all my young life. I saw down power lines, burning buildings, overturned cars. The police were out patrolling the streets from early morning until late in the evening.

By the time we got to our grandmother's house, my aunts and uncles and their children were all there as well. I remember my grandmother had candles burning, lanterns lit so that we could maneuver our way through the dark apartment. We all had made makeshift beds on the floor because only so many of us could only sleep in the three bedrooms. Morning had come and we were all safe, and my grandmother somehow managed to fix us all breakfast. As the day went on, we all eventually went back to our separate homes, but what we saw on the outside was like nothing we had never seen. It was like living in another world. It was sheer destruction everywhere.

Fast forward some thirty years later, in the neighborhood where I grew up on the west side of Chicago, around Roosevelt Road and Spaulding Avenue, there were major renovations as far as businesses and apartment buildings. For so long, it seemed as if there was no one that cared enough to want to bring our community back to life. The riots had destroyed so much of a once thriving area of neighborhood stores, barbershops, grocery stores and furniture stores and many other businesses. I often wondered why it took so long for the elected officials and community leaders of that time to come up with solutions to fix up our city.

When we lost Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we lost a great humanitarian and we lost our city as well. But out of that loss has come a change for the better. While it has taken a long time to revitalize our communities, we still have a long way to go.

Dr. King's Speech


The smoke from the riots in Chicago after assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968



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    • nina64 profile imageAUTHOR

      Nina L James 

      5 years ago from chicago, Illinois

      Hello shiningirisheyes, This is one story I tell over and over again because it had such an impact on my life. The memories behind this event will stay with me forever. I appreciate your comments so very much. Many blessings to you and your family.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 

      5 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Although I was far too young to remember, my older sibling as well as both parents taught me about the great soul and admirable Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and all he sacrificed for the equality of so many. My father and mother felt it important to educate me not only on this great man's achievements and terrible death, but to also study the Chicago riots as well as the "Freedom Riders."

      I clearly remember being a teenager when a man in Boston shot and killed his 9 mo's pregnant wife yet claimed a young black man did the killing. It touched off a terrible attack from the police on the black community in Boston. I remember watching as the police used hoses and brutality on a community who had done nothing to warrant it. All the while, it was the white husband who killed her. I must admit, had my Dad not brought my teenage attention to it, I may not have given it a second glance. I was, after all an on-the-go teenager. However, while sitting and watching the situation unfold on TV, I clearly remember how sad Dad was and referring to the Chicago police brutality as well as the road Dr. King was attempting to pave for coming generations.

      I am honored to have read an article with a reminder to us all that no one should forget. I commend you for writing this from a point of view from someone who was experiencing it first had. Quite an impact. I also must give my opinion....the fact that it is taking this long to rebuild a community tells me we still have a long way to go.

      I am happy to be following you.

      Many of Gods Blessings to you


    • nina64 profile imageAUTHOR

      Nina L James 

      5 years ago from chicago, Illinois

      Hello rcrumple, The 1968 Chicago riots was a time of civil unrest. I still can't get those images out of my mind. I, too believe that James Earl Ray did not act alone in the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I also believe that there was some sort of conspiracy against MLK. I appreciate you stopping by and commenting on my hub.

      Hi Billybuc, I often tell my children of this story. I'm amazed that I can still remember these events. Thank you so much for stopping by. Be blessed.

      Hello miftahur, This was a piece of history that will be forever engraved in my mind and heart. I appreciate your comments.

    • miftahur profile image

      Miftahur Roziqin 

      5 years ago from Indonesia

      I remember it

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I remember it like it was yesterday...I was nineteen and those years are imprinted forever on my brain. Nice job my friend.

    • rcrumple profile image


      5 years ago from Kentucky

      I remember those times well, but only from the newscasts as I was living in southern Indiana at the time.

      MLK was a great man, there is no doubt. It is still a question in my mind if James Earl Ray acted on his own, or if a greater conspiracy existed. Yet, in that time frame, there were also questions about Sirhan Sirhan being the sole killer of Bobby Kennedy, too. George Wallace was shot while campaigning, Malcom X was murdered, and 4 were dead at Kent State. The times they were-a changin', as Bob Dylan sang. It's sad how quickly some lessons were never learned, nor attitude changes permanent.

      Great Hub and very interesting story!


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