Just in time for today’s holiday honoring the birth of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., Baton Rouge’s Capitol Park Museum has put on display the hearse that carried King through Memphis after he was killed.
King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 while visiting Tennessee to support black sanitation workers who had gone on strike. The hearse placed into service that fateful day is on loan to the museum from Raising Cane’s founder Todd Graves, who bought it from a collector last June.
We hope the vintage vehicle will inspire reflection not only on King’s death but his life, which changed the course of American history. Luckily, the hearse isn’t the only reminder of King at the museum, operated by the state a stone’s throw from the Capitol at 660 North Fourth Street. It’s part of a broader exhibit, “Carrying on the Dream.” A related exhibit at the museum, “Grounds for Greatness,” touches on the 1953 public bus boycott in Baton Rouge King used as a model for the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott he helped organize in 1956.
Even now, Baton Rouge businessman Melvin Hardnett stands in awe of the history that's been placed in his care: the hearse that carried the bod…
The hearse and other exhibits could be worth the drive for those who don’t live in Baton Rouge. More info is available at louisianastatemuseum.org/capitol-park-museum.
One powerful lesson of the exhibits is that King wasn’t the only voice in the civil rights movement, nor did he claim to be. That activism for social change was advanced by many brave souls who risked their lives for the cause of justice and equality. Today is the day to honor them, too.
The breadth of the movement is evident in “Free All Along,” a new book that collects interviews with civil rights leaders conducted by novelist and poet Robert Penn Warren more than half a century ago.
Warren, who once taught at LSU and famously fictionalized Huey Long in “All the King’s Men,” traveled across America in 1964 talking to civil rights figures for his book, “Who Speaks for the Negro?” The interviews themselves haven’t been published in book form until now.
King is featured in the book, but many other important people in the movement appear, too, including some connected to Louisiana. In fact, “Free All Along” opens with an exchange between Warren and the Rev. Joe Carter, who recalls in painful detail his ultimately successful effort to register to vote in West Feliciana Parish in 1963. He was arrested on trumped-up charges, humiliated and threatened on the first attempt, yet decided to try again, even though his wife threatened to leave him if he did. “I said, ‘Well, you can get your clothes and start now, because I’m going back. I’m on my way back tomorrow,’” Carter told Warren.
Carter prevailed, paving the path toward equality for many others. Today is the day to remember Martin Luther King – and everyone who put their lives on the line as they summoned America to live up to its highest ideals.
HAMMOND — Southeastern Louisiana University will close Monday in recognition of the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday but will celebrat…