Los Angeles Times

Commentary: We honor King as a national hero. But movements for racial justice still get labeled unpatriotic.

Because Martin Luther King Jr. now stands as an exalted hero of American history, we tend to assume that his assassination 50 years ago was experienced as a national tragedy. Yet in the days and weeks after his death on April 4, 1968, Americans not only mourned and grieved but also seethed and raged.

President Johnson designated April 7, Palm Sunday that year, as a national day of mourning. On April 9, 120 million people watched King's funeral on television. But Americans were not unified by a collective grief. Some whites were incredulous at the president's proclamation and marveled that ministers would deliver eulogies for a man they considered a communist agitator; others even celebrated King's death.

Riots decimated

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