King’s assassination took center stage in 1968

By Christopher Jeske | Contributor
Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Martin Luther King assassination dominates coverage

From left, Rev. Edgar Chandler, Father Theodore M. Hesburgh, president of the University of Notre Dame, Martin Luther King Jr. and Msgr. Robert J. Hagarty of Chicago join hands during the Illinois Rally for Civil Rights in Chicago’s Soldier Field on June 21, 1964. (Chicago Catholic file photo)
Cardinal John Cody looks over bags of food given by people of all faiths for riot victims on the West Side. The photo was taken in the basement of Washington Boulevard Methodist Church in Oak Park on April 5, 1968. (Chicago Catholic archive photo)

Nearly 50 years ago, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. “weighed upon the conscience of the world.” That was the headline on the cover of the April 12, 1968, issue of The New World.

The issue included in-depth accounts of the variety of responses seen throughout the week following the civil-rights activist’s death.

King’s death itself was not reported as news. The press cycle landed an issue on doorsteps on April 5, the day after King was assassinated in Memphis by James Earl Ray.

The New World stories from that spring describe the frustration of a country torn apart. From a multitude of perspectives, a collective message was delivered: King was a martyr who devoted his existence to paving a pathway on which love, acceptance and understanding could travel indefinitely. 

That was the message that Pope Paul VI delivered from the Vatican on Palm Sunday following King’s death. He appealed to God “that the sacrifice of Martin Luther King may not remain in vain; but that through it the souls of all may be more widely open to forgiveness and reconciliation.” He further prayed that “We shall associate this memory with the tragic story of the passion of Christ.” 

The New World also covered the violence that erupted in Chicago, as some individuals succumbed to the anger they felt on King’s murder and sought revenge in the form of destruction. Rioting and looting ensued in the wake of tragedy.  Though violence was answered with more violence, acts of forgiveness and love prevailed in the form of voluntary relief services.

St. Catherine of Siena Parish and the Washington Boulevard Methodist Church were close to much of the destruction following King’s death. Both churches accepted food and clothing and distributed them to those affected by the riots. 

Many Chicago families also offered up their homes to people displaced by arson. 


  • rev. martin luther king jr
  • 125th anniversary

Related Articles