Today in NC State History: Reaction to assassination of MLK Jr.

April 6, 2012
By Bill Krueger

PrintReaction to the assassination in 1968 of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis ranged from stunned silence to a wave of riots in cities across the country.

The reaction at NC State was more muted. On this day in 1968, two days after King’s assassination, about 200 students and faculty members from NC State, Duke and UNC gathered in the Brickyard to march on the State Capitol in an attempt to speak with Gov. Dan Moore, according to an account in Historical State, an online archive maintained by NCSU Libraries. They wanted to present a petition to Moore that “show[ed] the Negro community that concern exists among whites by presenting written grievances to the governor.”

But there was a citywide curfew in place, according to Alice Elizabeth Reagan’s North Carolina State University: A Narrative History. Raleigh police stopped the marchers at Winston Hall, where Chancellor John T. Caldwell pleaded with them to disperse.

aa_king_subj_m“I wept tears when Martin Luther King died; I loved that man,” Caldwell told the crowd. “But you don’t have to demonstrate by breaking the law.”

Word spread that National Guard troops were waiting for the marchers on Hillsborough Street, near the Velvet Cloak Inn. So the protestors dispersed, with a smaller group meeting with an aide to the governor a few days later to present the petition.

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