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On March 31, 1968, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., gave his final Sunday sermon in nation’s capital, delivering the sermon, “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution” from the National Cathedral’s ornate Canterbury pulpit. It was just four days before the great civil rights leader was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn.
“No individual can live alone, no nation can live alone, and anyone who feels that he can live alone is sleeping through a revolution,” King said, quoting the Book of Revelation.
King also weaved in the story of Rip Van Winkle, then evoked the Declaration of Independence:
‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.’ But if a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists.
The sermon also outlined the future of the “Poor People’s Campaign,” King’s call to combat the economic injustice of the American poor.
Planning ahead, he insisted that his next D.C. visit would not be to “tear up Washington” but to “demand that the government address itself to the problem of poverty.” King, gunned down by an assassin’s bullet, would never return to D.C.
Photo of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from the Library of Congress’ New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection