Mourning, Anger, Struggle: Dr. Clarence B. Jones on the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Coretta Scott King at the funeral of Martin Luther King, comforting their 5-year-old daughter, Bernice.

   Photo by Moneta Sleet Jr., Wikimedia Commons.


This morning, the New Yorker online magazine has published an excerpt from Dr. Clarence B. Jones’s Last of the Lions: An African American Journey in Memoir, which Dr. Jones wrote with Stuart Connelly.


You can find today’s New Yorker piece (“My Life in the Aftermath of Martin Luther King’s Assassination”) here.


Dr. Jones’s reflections in the personal essay are heart wrenching.   His memories reveal important new elements in the history of the Black Freedom Movement and our nation.


“After my friend was killed, I considered taking up arms,” Jones writes. “But his legacy called me back to a different way of living.”


“In time, I’ve come to terms with the assassination, but I’ve never come to peace with it. For years, my grief made me selfish and self-destructive. Long gone are the days when I considered domestic terrorism, but the pain still runs as deep now as it did then. After some time, I realized that to turn my back on the struggle would be to turn my back on Dr. King.


I never worked with the S.C.L.C. again, but I did get involved in politics, becoming a New York State delegate at the 1968 Democratic Convention. In the early seventies, I invested in one of America’s oldest and most influential Black papers, the New York Amsterdam News, and I tried to protect prisoner rights as a negotiator during the Attica uprising. I did my best to elevate Black culture, working to restore Harlem’s Apollo Theatre and build a network of Black radio stations.


And I’ve continued to bear witness to Martin’s life and character. There’s an African saying that I often reflect upon when I think about his legacy and my own part in his movement: if the surviving lions don’t tell their stories, the hunters will take all the credit.”


The Last of the Lions comes out on August 1.