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Commentary By Jason L. Riley

Jesse Jackson Turned the Civil-Rights Cause into an Industry

Culture Culture & Society

Refighting battles the movement had already won helped ensure poor blacks would stay impoverished.

In his 1989 autobiography, “And the Walls Came Tumbling Down,” Ralph Abernathy, a close friend and mentor of Martin Luther King Jr., offers a gripping account of King’s assassination at a Memphis, Tenn., motel in 1968.

King was shot standing on the motel balcony while Abernathy was inside. “I bolted out the door and found him there, face up, sprawled and unmoving,” Abernathy wrote. “Stepping over his frame I knelt down, gathered him in my arms, and began patting him on his left cheek.” While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, Abernathy tried to comfort King, who was losing consciousness. “Martin. It’s all right. Don’t worry. This is Ralph. This is Ralph.”

Jesse Jackson, a young King confidante, had been down in the motel courtyard chatting with other members of King’s entourage when the shooting occurred. “I glanced at the courtyard below, consciously aware for the first time that somebody, somewhere had fired a gun,” Abernathy wrote. “It had been only a matter of seconds, but no one was visible in the parking lot. Jesse . . . and the others had apparently taken cover—where, I didn’t know.”

Continue reading the entire piece here at The Wall Street Journal (paywall)


Jason L. Riley is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, and a Fox News commentator. Follow him on Twitter here.

Photo by Cynthia Johnson/Getty Images