April 4 marks the anniversary of the Civil Rights leader's assassination.
Today (April 4) marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's assassination and Samuel L. Jackson has chosen to honor him. The Civil Rights activist, who is a King by both name and title, gave his life for a movement that broke down the walls of racism and paved the way for accomplishments such as Barack Obama's presidency. Jackson wrote a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter, entitled Samuel L. Jackson: How I Became an Usher at Martin Luther King Jr.'s Funeral, that was published in honor of the anniversary. In the article, Jackson speaks about being invited to the city where King was assassinated, Memphis, by Bill Cosby.
"When I first heard, I was actually in the liquor store buying a quart of beer, because it was campus movie night. The cashier said, 'Dr. King got shot.' I said, 'Is he dead?' And he said, 'No, not yet,'" begins Jackson.
"A couple of days later, these guys told us Bill Cosby and Robert Culp wanted us to get on a plane with them and fly to Memphis to march with the garbage workers," continues the actor. "There was a lot of anger on the plane. We didn't know what to expect when we got to Memphis. We all thought it was probably going to be something physical, even though the National Guard was there. Culp and Cosby were trying to give us instructions on how to carry ourselves and enact King's dream of being nonviolent. It was cool that they'd take us to Memphis and foot the bill for it."
After visiting Memphis, Jackson was inspired to participate in King's funeral. "We flew back that night and went to Sisters Chapel at Spelman College, where Dr. King was lying in state," reveals Jackson. "The next day was the funeral. They needed volunteers to help people find their way around campus, and I became an usher. I remember Mahalia Jackson singing. I'd been listening to her all my life, so it was great to hear her sing "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" live. I remember seeing people like Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier. People that I thought I'd never see, let alone have a relationship with later on in life. The funeral was pretty much a blur."
Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered on the birthday of historic poet Maya Angelou.