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LISTEN: Memories of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Assassination

Memphis residents Kathy Dean Evans and Herb Kneeland recall the day they learned of the civil rights leader's assassination.

Editor’s Note: With this online package and several pieces you may have noticed in recent issues of our magazine, ESSENCE is marking the 50th anniversary of 1963, a watershed year in the civil rights movement. As we reflect on that era and its lessons, ESSENCE.com is partnering with StoryCorps, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to record and preserve the personal histories of diverse Americans — including those Black Americans who were witness to the times and to our struggle for equality. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing snippets of these touching, inspiring, sometimes infuriating stories from StoryCorps’ archives. 

Forty-five years later, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. remains branded not only in Civil Rights history but in the memories of those who lived through it.

Kathy Dean Evans, who learned of the murder firsthand as a young girl, and Herb Kneeland, who broke the news live as a disc jockey on a Memphis radio station, vividly remember the chilling events of April 4, 1968.

“When Dr. King was assassinated here, I was on the air and by the time I was trying to leave the radio station I couldn’t leave because armored tanks were already on the streets of Memphis,” Kneeland recalls.

In the first audio clip below, recorded by StoryCorps in Memphis, Kathy Dean Evans remembers her community’s response to Dr. King’s assassination. In the second clip, Herb Kneeland shares with his son, Martavius Jones, what it was like informing the city about the devastating news.

Kathy Dean Evans on StoryCorps:


Herb Kneeland on StoryCorps: