I was a junior in high school on this day April 4, 1968. Dr. Martin Luther King was in Memphis, Tennessee to support the striking garbage workers and was assassinated. After the assassination of Dr. King made the news, a white man on a Philly trolley joked about Dr. King dying with the garbage. On that same trolley, a young black man had trouble ignoring what he heard. I think it was best for the response to be no more than a verbal one, but he responded to the put down of Dr. King by punching the man in the mouth. That might have made the young man feel good at the time, but I wonder how he felt later dealing with the police and the charges brought up against him in court.
After school that day, I along with other students headed home on the #26 bus. Philly high school students rode back and forth to school with the general public and not on yellow school buses. We always packed the bus. A few white men and male high school students from a nearby parochial school sitting in the back and getting off the bus at back door suffered punches from black male students except for one. Pete, a white high school student lived in the neighborhood and was like family to those who lived on his block. The neighborhood guys barricaded him from the punches.
Dr. King suffered much as a civil rights leader, especially due to his belief in non-violence. Regardless of what he verbally and physically endured, you never heard about him talking nasty and insulting to anyone. You never heard about getting physical with anyone. These reactions on a Philly trolley and bus to Dr. King’s death were wrong. They were an affront to his non-violent legacy.