Check back here throughout the day for live coverage from events from the National Civil Rights Museum. Mobile users click here to view livestream on our Facebook page.
The video below is from earlier Wednesday.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Crowds were lining up Wednesday morning at the National Civil Rights Museum in downtown Memphis for the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The storms of Tuesday night cleared up for a chilly but sunny day for a full day of events throughout the city.
King, who was in Memphis to support striking sanitation workers, was cut down by a bullet on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel at 6:01 p.m. April 4, 1968. The motel and his room have been preserved and are incorporated into the museum.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said the day was a chance to reflect on where America stands in comparison to the King’s dream.
“We have to do better. We have to love one another. We have to embrace each other,” Strickland said. “When African-American families make half, on average, of what white families do, that’s a national issue.”
Strickland said Memphis sanitation workers’ conditions have improved greatly since 1968. Workers now make at least $15 an hour with retirement and benefits, he said.
Last year, Memphis approved grants of $70,000 for surviving retired sanitation workers who took part in the strike of 1968.
Former President Barack Obama addressed crowds in a video address, tying the struggles of King’s age with current-day protests. Overall, he said, the world is “fairer, freer and more just” than it was in 1968,
“Because of him and his fellow marchers, barricades began to fall and bigotry began to fade. Laws changed but so did hearts and minds,” Obama said “We, the people have the power to continually remake this nation to align with our highest ideals.”
President Donald Trump also released a video tribute to King on Twitter, calling him a “great American hero.”
“We rededicate ourselves to a glorious future where every American from every walk of life can live free from fear, liberated from hatred and uplifted by boundlesslove for their fellow citizens,” Trump said.
WREG anchor Stephanie Scurlock was one of the day’s keynote speakers. She acknowledged herself as a beneficiary of Martin Luther King’s legacy.
“I would not be standing here today if not for Dr. King and I am keenly aware of that,” she said.
Former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders attended the events, as did Elmore Nickelberry, who participated in the 1968 sanitation workers’ strike and still works for the city at age 86.
Regis Bingham, who was in line with a group of students from Williamsport, Pennsylvania, was upbeat about the occasion.
“This is a very special day,” he said. “We’re able to commemorate one of our civil rights icons. We study in school about symbols, and this is one of our American symbols right here at the Lorraine Motel.”
Elaine Gary of Memphis said she was still emotional about his death as she waited in line to enter the museum.
“It’s sad that of all the places in the world, he would be killed right here in Memphis, Tennessee,” she said. “I’ve been here all my life. Not much has changed,” she said.
Streets around the museum are closed, but MATA is offering free transportation to the museum Wednesday.