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Martin Luther King Jr anniversary: Crowds gather in Memphis for events to honour rights' leader's legacy - as it happened

As the world marks the milestone, attention turns to the ongoing disparity between white and black Americans in modern society

50 years on from Martin Luther King's assassination, did his dream come true?

Admirers gathered in Memphis to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr‘s final speech in Memphis 50 years ago.

The commemoration mirrored events half a century ago, when an enthusiastic crowd roused Dr King from his bed at the Lorraine Motel for an unplanned appearance, when he delivered his famous “Mountaintop” speech without notes.

Bernice King, his daughter, addressed the audience and called on her older brother, Martin Luther King III, to join her at the pulpit.

She discussed the difficulty of publicly mourning their father, a man who was hated during his lifetime but is now celebrated around the world.

“It’s important to see two of the children who lost their daddy 50 years ago to an assassin’s bullet,” said Ms King, now 55.

“But we kept going. Keep all of us in prayer as we continue the grieving process for a parent that we’ve had yet to bury.”

As the world marked the 50th anniversary of Dr King’s murder, the milestone coincided with a resurgence of white supremacy, the continued shootings of unarmed black men, and a parade of discouraging statistics on the lack of progress among black Americans on issues from housing to education to wealth.

But rather than despair, the resounding message was one of resilience, resolve, and a renewed commitment to Dr King’s legacy and unfinished work.

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Welcome to The Independent's live blog on the commemorations of Martin Luther King Jr. His admirers have gathered for a celebration of his final speech in Memphis on the anniversary of his assassination 50 years ago.

Samuel Osborne4 April 2018 11:26
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Samuel Osborne4 April 2018 11:30
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Dr King gave what is known as the "Mountaintop" speech the night before he died 50 years ago.

Lee Saunders, a national labour leader, recounted how on that night in 1968, Dr King made an unplanned appearance to deliver the famous speech without notes after his aides saw how passionate the crowd was: "There was one man they wanted to hear from."

But Mr Saunders stressed that the purpose of the week's commemorations was not just to look to the past.

"Dr King's work - our work - isn't done. We must still struggle; we must still sacrifice. We must still educate and organise and mobilise. That's why we're here in Memphis. Not just to honour our history, but to seize our future," he said.

Samuel Osborne4 April 2018 11:40
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In a video message, former president Barack Obama said: "As long as we're still trying, Dr King's soul is still rejoicing."

Samuel Osborne4 April 2018 11:47
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Calling her oldest brother, Martin Luther King III, to join her in the pulpit, Bernice King discussed the difficulty of publicly mourning their father, a man hated during his lifetime and now beloved around the world.

"It's important to see two of the children who lost their daddy 50 years ago to an assassin's bullet," said Ms King, now 55.

"But we kept going. Keep all of us in prayer as we continue the grieving process for a parent that we've had yet to bury."

Samuel Osborne4 April 2018 11:59
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Samuel Osborne4 April 2018 12:14
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Some of the sanitation workers who participated with Dr King in a 1968 strike sat in the front row and were treated like celebrities, with audience members stopping to take photos with them before the event started.

Contemporaries of Dr King's including the Reverend Jesse Jackson were also in attendance.

Samuel Osborne4 April 2018 12:20
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The commemoration of the "Mountaintop" speech followed an announcement earlier in the day by civil rights leaders who are reviving an economic justice campaign first planned by Dr King.

The organisers of a new Poor People's Campaign are planning 40 days of marches, sit-ins and other peaceful protests.

"This first 40 days is not the end; it's the launch," said the Reverend William Barber of North Carolina, one of the co-chairs of the revived campaign.

"You will see simultaneous moral direct action. You will see simultaneous training of people to prepare for a season of massive voter mobilisation."

Starting on 14 May, clergy, union members and other activists will take part in the events in about 30 states, targeting Congress and state legislatures.

Then, on 23 June, organisers plan a large rally in Washington - similar to what Dr King had envisioned.

The original Poor People's Campaign was carried out in 1968 after Dr King's death by other civil rights leaders.

Samuel Osborne4 April 2018 12:26
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Samuel Osborne4 April 2018 12:35
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Martin Luther King Jr led a march in Memphis that turned violent on 28 March, and he went back home to Atlanta.

Seeking to prove non-violent protests still worked, Dr King vowed to lead a peaceful march and returned to Memphis days later.

The civil rights leader was standing on the balcony of the old Lorraine Motel when he was shot on 4 April, 1968.

He died at a hospital at the age of 39.

Samuel Osborne4 April 2018 12:43

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