Moments from a Day or Two After the Murder of Martin Luther King, Jr.

1. Duke Ellington and his orchestra were already scheduled to play his Second Sacred Concert at Carnegie Hall on April 4, 1968. Ellington was participating in a concert of religious music to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the black institution, Tougaloo College, whose choir sang during the program. Before the concert began, it was announced to the audience that Martin Luther King, Jr., had been gunned down in Memphis. The New York Times said that the gasp from the people there "almost filled the hall."

A Lutheran minister there, John Gensel, led a prayer for King and "all future civil rights movements." The only change in the program was that a solo singer, Robert Edwin, changed his song to "Oh, Who Will Answer," a hymn that contains the lyrics, "Man is sunk in dark despair/Oh, listen to the pleading cry/Oh, who will answer, 'Here am I'?"

The title of the evening was "Good News for the Modern Man."

2. All over the country, for two days, April 5 and 6, 1968, longshoremen and others at ports from Texas to Maine shut down work in honor of King. This included passenger ships and boats carrying supplies to soldiers in Vietnam. Unions for the workers had been integrated for years, with up to 50% of their membership non-white, and the presidents for the National Maritime Union and the International Longshoremen's Association issued statements calling for the shut down. The head of the ILA, Thomas Gleason, said of King, "He was a man of peace and dignity, completely dedicated to God and the brotherhood of man. It is fitting and proper, then, that we devote this time to pray that the principles that guided this great, great man continue to guide others in the movement for brotherhood to which he devoted his energies."

The work stoppage began in Elizabeth, New Jersey, at 8 a.m. on April 5. By noon, "the 90 piers of the port of New York City were sepulchral," said the Times.

3. In New Delhi, India, the parliament heard a tribute to King from Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, followed by a moment of silence. In Tel-Aviv, Israel, Prime Minister Abba Eba went on the radio to speak in honor of King. Newspapers in that country emphasized that King's murderer was white. In Beirut, Lebanon, the newspapers announced the killing with headlines like "Negro Revolt Breaks Out in America." In Rome, Italy, hundreds of students demonstrated outside the U.S. Embassy to protest the assassination.

In Austin, Texas, thousands of students marched on the state capitol, demanding racial equality, after a memorial service for King. In Madison, Wisconsin, the chancellor of the University of Wisconsin led 20,000 in a silent march. In Kansas City, Missouri, a black clerk noticed that flags on the county courthouse and city hall were not at half-mast. Within 5 minutes of his complaining, they were lowered.

4. Out of respect for King, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Louis Armstrong said they would not perform at the upcoming Oscar ceremony. Sidney Poitier and Diahann Carroll said they would not present awards, as they had been scheduled to do. Soon after their announcements, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to postpone the entire ceremony for several days.