1930—Ras Tafari is proclaimed Emperor of Ethiopia—one of the only African nations to successfully resist European colonization. He is renamed Haile Selassie. Blacks in many parts of the world view him as a god-like figure. Indeed, Jamaicans form a religion in his honor. They call themselves Rastafarians. Selassie could trace his ancestry as far back as the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon of the Christian Bible.
1950—Carter G. Woodson, the father of Black History Month, dies at age 74 in Washington, D.C.
1961—Comedian-actor Eddie Murphy is born in Brooklyn, N.Y.
1968—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his powerful and prophetic “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech in Memphis, Tenn. Many felt he used the speech to predict his own death. He was assassinated the very next day—at 6:01 p.m., April 4, 1968.
1915—Muddy Waters is born McKinley Morganfield in Rolling Fork, Miss. Walters would go on to become one of the primary shapers of that genre of music known as the blues. Indeed, he was easily one of the most influential musicians of the first half of the 20th century.
1928—Poet Maya Angelou is born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Mo. Angelou now ranks as one of the greatest poets in America. But her talents have also been expressed as a playwright, author, producer, historian and civil rights activist.
1967—Civil rights legend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. formally announces his opposition to America’s war in Vietnam during a speech before the Overseas Press Club in New York City. The speech brought King even greater opposition from the federal government, especially then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. It also alienated some Black leaders who felt it was a mistake to mix domestic civil rights issues with foreign policy issues. But King charged that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
1968—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated while standing on a hotel balcony in Memphis, Tenn., as he had embarked on a campaign to focus the Civil Rights Movement on economic and financial betterment issues for Blacks. Riots or urban rebellions broke out in over 100 U.S. cities. At least 50 people are killed as over 20,000 federal troops and 34,000 National Guardsmen are mobilized to put down the disturbances. The official finding was that a lone White gunman, James Earl Ray, was responsible for the assassination. However, suspicions remain until this day that the FBI, led by arch-conservative J. Edgar Hoover, was somehow involved in the killing.