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North Carolina Marks Martin Luther King Jr.'s Death, 50 Years Later

Rev. Gil Caldwell (far right) with Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and many people across the Tar Heel state are remembering the civil rights leader.When King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee he was scheduled to be in Wilmington, North Carolina, at a voter registration rally. Today, Governor Roy Cooper will speak at Williston Middle School in Wilmington to mark King’s death. A documentary will be shown, there will be entertainment and organizers are asking churches to ring their bells at 7:01 p.m., the exact time King was shot to death.

A commemorative event is also scheduled for tonight at Duke University’s Divinity School. History Professor Emeritus Bill Chafe is one of the speakers.

“Of course the Memphis situation was so dire and it basically demonstrated how committed he was to labor unions, to black labor unions, and to working for economic justice for black workers," said Chafe.

King chose to return to Memphis, instead of coming to Wilmington, to help support and energize striking sanitation workers. That is where King would give his famous speech, "I've Been to the Mountaintop".

“Dr. King was such an extraordinary person. And he had been to Duke. He had spoken at Duke and he inspired a great many people," said Chafe. "I think that he had gone through so much, had experienced so much intimidation by the FBI. Which we didn’t know about at that time but we soon found out about.”

State Representative Henry M. "Mickey" Michaux will also speak at the Duke Divinity event, recalling his friendship with King. The remembrance begins at 5:15 p.m. in Goodson Chapel.

In Raleigh, the North Carolina Poor People’s Campaign will hold a town hall event at Shaw University in Thomas Boyd Chapel. The program begins at 6:30 p.m. And in Winston-Salem, at 6 p.m., a coalition of faith and economic justice organizations will rally for what they call "Family Wages," $15 an hour for all city workers. 

Leoneda Inge is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Leoneda has been a radio journalist for more than 30 years, spending most of her career at WUNC as the Race and Southern Culture reporter. Leoneda’s work includes stories of race, slavery, memory and monuments. She has won "Gracie" awards, an Alfred I. duPont Award and several awards from the Radio, Television, Digital News Association (RTDNA). In 2017, Leoneda was named "Journalist of Distinction" by the National Association of Black Journalists.
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