Item 1545b - The death of Dr. King

Identity area

Reference code

CA ON00389 F4-9-1-1545b

Title

The death of Dr. King

Date(s)

  • December 18, 1968 (Creation)

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Item

Extent and medium

1 p. of textual records

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(1932-1996)

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Scope and content

This item consists of a one page article by Henri Nouwen entitled: The Death of Dr King, published in the National Catholic Reporter, December 18, 1968, p. 4. This article is a subjective reflection by Nouwen on the atmosphere, experience and people he encountered following the death of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968. Nouwen uses a number of headings : 1) The News – this begins in Chicago where he first hears of King’s assassination. He describes the muted responses of the people he meets, 'Martin Luther King was dead, killed, assassinated. Everybody knew it but nobody wanted to know it'. 2) The Party – Here Nouwen describes the atmosphere at a party following his talk and notes particularly that most people are avoiding speaking of Dr King’s death. 3) The Cool City – moves on to Topeka, Kansas where Nouwen reflects on the contrast between the ‘slickness and artificiality’ and ‘the madness’. ‘We were killing the prophets…Between the hollow voices of those who tried to advertise their latest product, it became clear that violence was cutting through the thresholds of restraint. Topeka seemed a cool and indifferent city’. 4) In Kansas City Nouwen visits a young man in prison for draft evasion. This young man speaks of the influence of Dr King on his life and the lives of his fellow prisoners and the atmosphere in the prison: ’when they heard that he was dead they doubled the guards. They did not understand that we were just crying, my Afro-American friends and me’. 5) The Cab Driver –this speaks of Nouwen’s decision to change his plans and travel to Atlanta for the funeral. He describes his encounter at the airport with a cab driver who is also going. The cab driver shares with Nouwen: ‘ Dr King just tried to take Christ’s words seriously. He realized he had to follow him all the way. What would happen if we really would do just that?’ The remainder of the article describes the atmosphere in Atlanta: ‘It was a special occasion in which happiness and joy merged with sadness and distress. Perhaps it had never been different for them.’ Nouwen concludes this article by reflecting on his hope despite all the ‘anger, grief and frustration’. ‘I knew that out of my exhaustion a new faith could grow, a faith that it is possible to love’.

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Note

Published in The National Catholic Reporter 5, no. 9 (December 18, 1968): 4.
File includes the newspaper section in which the article is printed.
Annotation in unknown hand on page 1: "See page 4."
Newspaper is two-hole punched.
This article was published in a slightly revised form as, Were You There? The Death of Martin Luther King, Jr 1968, in Nouwen, Henri J M , The Road to Peace, ed. by John Dear, Maryknoll, N.Y., Orbis Books, 1998.

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Accession Number

2007 62

Location

Box 294

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