From Birmingham to Memphis

“The assassination of a public figure awakens us to hidden and neglected realities. The criminal killing of Martin Luther King, Jr. was such an event.”

On April 28, 1968, Rabbi Olan spoke about the April 4 murder of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Bridwell Library does not have an audio recording of this sermon. If it did, I am sure that we would hear grief and anger in Olan’s voice. He knew Dr. King personally, and he had great respect for King’s vision. A horrendous act of violence ended King’s life. Would it also end the movement toward full freedom and equality? Not if Rabbi Olan had anything to say about it.

What Olan did say, in part, is that America would have to pay for this crime and for its greater crimes against humanity. “The Negro was brought over here in chains and forced into slavery. When he was liberated , he was segregated, humiliated, discriminated, deprived of education, job opportunity, and freedom. Do we really expect that after all of this wickedness we can just be forgiven? There is no way to escape the penalty.”

And yet, all may not be lost. Olan preached that out of this tragedy lessons could be learned. To join Olan in reflecting on these lessons, I invite you to read the sermon. If possible, read it out loud. May Rabbi Olan’s message move us to resume the struggle to build a more just and equitable society for all.

Follow this link to read the sermon text.

*Written by Tim Binkley*