Human Interests

Martin Luther King Jr. Made a Playful Comment About Being Shot Moments Before His Death, Doc Reveals

Jan 15, 2024people
King's confidant Andrew Young shares details about the hours leading up to King's assassination in a documentary re-airing on The CW Monday

The topic of death was on Martin Luther King Jr.’s mind the day he was killed.

According to a documentary re-airing on The CW Monday, titled I AM MLK JR., one of King’s confidants Andrew Young shared details of a previously unknown conversation that took place between the civil rights leader and reporters just moments before he was assassinated.

Young, 91, recalled that a group of reporters were with him and King in Memphis on April 4, 1968, when one reporter joked, “‘Andy, I know you don’t like us getting in your face with the camera, but I’ve got to keep a camera on Dr. King because if he gets shot, and I don’t get a picture of it, I lose my job.’ ”

“Martin thought that was funny, and he said, ‘Now, I’ll tell you what’s going to happen. They might take a shot at me, but one of you all will be jumping in front and take it for me,’ ” Young shared of King’s response to the quip.

Then, “Somebody knocked on the door and said, ‘You supposed to be at dinner at 6 o’clock. Y’all need to get dressed,’ ” and soon after, King was shot and killed while standing on a balcony at the Lorraine Motel. 

Young, a former UN ambassador, also remarked on the civil right leader’s temperament on the day of his death. “I hadn’t seen him that jovial and clowning and free in a long time,” he said. “He was just in a very playful mood.”

The documentary, which re-airs Monday, explores King’s “life and character,” detailing his rise to the position of leadership he attained during the nationwide civil rights movement, as well as “moments of personal challenge and elation” that he experienced.

Several other activists speak on King’s lasting legacy in the film, as well as writers and “outspoken celebrities.”

Another film project exploring King’s fight for equality is set to debut next month.

In the latest installment of National Geographic's Genius series, Genius: MLK/Xfollows "the formative years, pioneering accomplishments, dueling philosophies and key personal relationships of both King (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and Malcolm X (Aaron Pierre).” 

The eight-part series will also see the two historical figures' wives, Coretta Scott King (Weruche Opia) and Betty Shabazz (Jayme Lawson), come to the forefront as "formidable equals of the Movement."

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I AM MLK JR. will air on The CW Monday.