One of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most iconic speeches was made right here in Memphis on the last night of his life. He talked about the Mountaintop and the Promised Land, how he basically stood on one and had seen the other. Those who were there that night say his words are forever etched in their memory.
“Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land,” said Dr. King in his last speech.
Glosten Anderson was there at Mason Temple in downtown Memphis. He remembers Dr. Martin Luther King’s last speech like it was yesterday.
“It was maybe 3 or 400 people, all you could get in the church. It was packed,” said King Supporter Glosten Anderson.
Anderson was in his 30’s. He says King’s words electrified the room.
“They shouted and shouted and hugged him, and he walked off the stage,” said Anderson.
“The issue is the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants, who happen to be sanitation workers,” said Dr. King in his last speech.
But, Anderson says it was the sanitation workers and the grassroots efforts of local Memphis churches that had him marching with an ‘I Am A Man’ sign a couple of days before the famous speech.
“We had gotten organized a day ahead of time, and the march started at Clayborn Temple. We marched north to Beale Street. We did a left on Beale Street heading towards Main Street. All of a sudden it stopped. It was tear gas bombs going off up on Main Street,” said Anderson. “So, to keep from being stampeded, I just stood up on the sidewalk and got out of the way.”
“Somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for rights. And so just as I said, we aren’t going to let dogs or water hoses turn us around. We aren’t going to let any injunction turn us around. We are going on,” said Dr. King in his last speech.
That speech is forever etched in Anderson’s mind, and so is where he stood when he got the word Dr. King had been murdered.
“I was at Kellogg. I was at work working the 3 to 11 shift,” said Anderson.
“Go out and tell your neighbors not to buy Coca-Cola in Memphis. Go by and tell them not to buy Sealtest milk. Tell them not to buy – what is the other bread? Wonder Bread. And what is the other bread company, Jesse? Tell them not to buy Hart’s bread. As Jesse Jackson has said, up to now, only the garbage men have been feeling pain; now we must kind of redistribute the pain,” said Dr. King in his last speech.
From the day Anderson first heard Dr. King’s voice to the day Dr. King became one of the martyrs for the Civil Rights Movement, Anderson says he will never forget being one of hundreds inside Mason Temple for Dr. King’s last speech.