NEWSCASTER: Several thousand Negro demonstrators areparticipating in this largest civil rights demonstration ever in Memphis,Tennessee.
WES: It's March 28th, 1968.
NEWSCASTER: Police are on hand with about 600officers. Almost the entire force is standing by here in case any trouble mightbreak out.
WES: 1300 Black sanitation workers have been strikingfor just over six weeks. And today, Martin Luther King Jr is flying in from NewYork to lead a march in their support to the strikers are already waitingoutside of Clayborn Temple, a massive church just south of Beale Street wherethe march is set to begin. Ernest Withers is there, too. He's taking photos, asusual, but this time he's also helping out. The protest signs that day wereattached to wooden sticks, and Ernest had been the one who rented the saw heused to make them. Ernest gathers the striking workers outside for a groupportrait. They stand in loose formation about 30 across several rows, deep,tightly packed. They raise their signs above their heads as Ernest steps backand peers down through the lens of his camera. In the frame, an indelibleimage. Hundreds of Black workers, each holding a sign with the same simplemessage. I Am a Man.
NEWSCASTER: Dr. Martin Luther King's massive downtownmarch on Memphis is now underway. Several thousand Negroes are marching towardCity Hall at this time. Many of the demonstrators are carrying the sign I Am aMan. They stretch out for several blocks.
WES: Dr. King is up front, his arms linked with theother leaders. He looks worried. And he should be. Something is about to happenthat had never happened to him before.
NEWSCASTER: Chaos has just broken out downtown. Chaoshas broken out downtown. All right. Negro youths are smashing windows.
WES: Bobby Dr. is one of thousands in the crowd.
BOBBY: All hell broke loose with these big placardholders that were used to break out windows of stores on Beale Street.
WES: The wooden sticks that had been attached to theprotest signs, the ones that Ernest Withers had helped to provide, were nowbeing used by a group of kids to break windows. Dr. King had faced plenty ofviolence in Selma, in Montgomery. But for the first time ever, the violence wascoming from within one of his marches.
NEWSCASTER: Appears several Negro started running down Main Street, smashingwindows as they ran. Police have formed a cordon across Main Street at thistime in an attempt to at least calm the demonstration, which has gottencompletely out of hand. The Negro youths are shouting at this time, "Go,go, go." The police have formed a cordon and they're not permitting themarch to move any further.
WES: Before long, the police are beating the marchersseemingly indiscriminately. People scatter in all directions. Tear gas isfired. King is marshaled away.
NEWSCASTER: We're trying to flee the area ourselves.Police are now again chasing more Negro youths and an attempt to break up thiswhile mele a disturbance on Main Street.
WES: Ernest is in the mayhem and his photographs tellthe story. Moment by moment. Here's Bobby Doctor again.
BOBBY: There was one guy in particular. They singledout the police did. They chased him and chased him. They finally caught him.Now, there was a picture of that particular series that was done by Ernie.Ernie showed it to me. You can see them chasing it. That was one photograph.The next photograph, you can see them catching him. Okay. The third photograph,you could see them beating him with those sticks. The fourth photograph, he wason the ground bloody passed out. Blood all over the place. The last photograph,the officers who were beating him turned around, walking away from his body inthe prone position with their badge numbers covered.
WES: Downtown Memphis is a picture of chaos. Andthose wooden sticks, the ones from the I Am a Man signs, the ones held high inErnest's most famous photographs. They have been used to start the riot. Thisis Unfinished: Ernie's Secret. I'm Wesley Lowery.
WES: Martin Luther King Jr was despondent. He hadfled the violent scene downtown and checked into a Holiday Inn about a mile anda half away. According to reports at the time, he crawled into bed, still fullyclothed and pulled the covers up over his head. Speaking to his friend RalphAbernathy, King said, "Maybe we just have to admit that the day ofviolence is here." Until now. Ernest Withers, the photographer, an FBIinformant, has been our primary protagonist. But for the next two episodes,we're going to widen our lens. We're going to zoom out from earnest to focus ona major inflection point in the fight for civil rights. We're going to trace Dr.King's last two visits to Memphis, and we're going to look at a raging debateamong activists about the future of the movement. But to tell that story, weneed to start two years earlier in the hot summer of 1966. It's June and Dr.King is hiking along Mississippi Highway 51. Leading the nonviolent marchagainst fear through the state. King hadn't planned to be here. Just daysbefore James Meredith, the same activists who had integrated Ole Miss fouryears earlier, had started a solo journey from Memphis to Jackson, Mississippi.He was marching to encourage black voter registration and to challenge whiteintimidation. But on just the second day of his walk, Meredith was shot andwounded by a white supremacist. Activists across the country were horrified. Beforelong, his one man protest had grown into a major civil rights demonstration anda demonstration of how the movement was changing. By now, Malcolm X had beenassassinated. The Watts riots had happened in L.A.. The war in Vietnam wasratcheting up and young men were being drafted. Young activists were thinkingin new, more radical ways. Growing impatient with the lack of progress. And sothis march became something of a turning point. Across the country, Dr. Kingwas seen as the living symbol of the civil rights movement. But in reality, hewas only part of it. King didn't control James Meredith or any of the otheryoung activists who had poured into the movement. But at a moment like this,much of the nation and the media turned to King for a response. It fell to himto show up in support of Meredith's campaign.
MLK JR: Let me say first that this march isnonviolent. It is a nonviolent expression of our determination to be free. Thisis the principle of the march. And certainly we intend to keep this marchnonviolent.
WES: By now, there was an open debate among blackactivists whether the utility of nonviolence had run its course. If it was timeto try something different, then.
STOKELY CARMICHAEL: No one in this country is askingthe white community in the South to be nonviolent. And that, in a sense, isgiving them a free license to go ahead and shoot us at will.
WES: Stokely Carmichael, a young movement leader,marched next to King in Mississippi. As the men marched, they debated. Twoblack freedom fighters, advancing two philosophies for liberation.
MARCHERS: Freedom got a shotgun, oh yeah! Saidfreedom got a shotgun, oh yeah!
WES: And of course, Ernest Withers was there, too.There's even a photo of him. He's walking alongside Dr. King, James Lawson andStokely Carmichael with a camera around his neck. Officially, Ernest was partof the press caravan, but he was also passing on a lot of details about themarch to the FBI.
COBY SMITH: I quickly became on Marshall put thelittle thing on you on.
WES: The days long march depended on the support ofvolunteers like Coby Smith, a 19 year old college student from Memphis. Andbeing a marshall had its advantages.
COBY SMITH: Oh, it was great for me. I enjoyed that.There were girls I didn't know. It was like being on a picnic at night. Wecooked around a big open fire and sleep on the ground.
WES: What Coby didn't know then was that this marchwould shape the course of his life. Coby had joined the march as part of Dr.King's crowd, but he found himself gravitating towards the younger leaders.Leaders like Stokely Carmichael.
COBY SMITH: Stokely and I became friends. It wasn'tjust Stokely. A lot of the leadership of SNCC was there.
WES: SNCC was the Student Nonviolent CoordinatingCommittee, and 24 year old Carmichael was the chairman. After years of sit insand marches, freedom rides and voter registration drives in the Deep South,SNCC was now a war hardened group. Some of them were developing more militantideas about the direction the movement should take.
COBY SMITH: Every day marching down the highway, we'dbe debating with Dr. King. You know, he was a great teacher. He would talk tous about everything, the movement, the value of it, the reasons we were doingit. Dr. King would say, you know, this is a nonviolent marc we're on, someoneassaults you you turn the other cheek. Said man that ain't happenin here. I'mtoo quick and young, agile and hostile.
WES: One night during the march, Cobby said a gang ofwhite men overran their camp with bats and ax handles. Faced with that kind ofattack, Coby said that some of the marchers didn't want to be passive anymore.
COBY SMITH: So the guys from the North wereinterested in going home and getting their guns.
WES: In another incident, Stokely Carmichael wasarrested after a confrontation with the police. After his release, he caught upwith the marchers and addressed them at a rally. "The only way we're goingto stop them white men from whipping us is to take over. We've been sayingfreedom for six years and we ain't got nothing. What we're going to startsaying now is black power."
STOKELY CARMICHAEL: We want black power! That's whatwe gonna get.
WES: For young people like Coby Smith. That messagewas inspiring.
COBY SMITH: I decided that I was going to cast my lotwith the leadership of SNCC.
WES: Why? Why SNCC?
COBY SMITH: Man? Have you ever met StokelyCarmichael?
WES: I haven't.
COBY SMITH: This is the most charismatic brother youcan hope to meet. He was able to say the kinds of things that King wouldn'tsay.
WES: Like what?
COBY SMITH: Instead of turn the other cheek, you needto whoop some ass.
WES: That was appealing to you.
COBY SMITH: Oh, sure. It was appealing, man. It wasappealing.
WES: On November 29th, 1966, the FBI opened a file onCoby Vernon Smith. Bill Lawrence wrote that Smith had divorced himself from themodern NAACP. The agent wanted regular updates on Smith, and Ernest Withers wasthe man for the job.
WES: Do you remember how you first met ErnestWithers?
COBY SMITH: Ernest Withers was a lifelong familyfriend. He would come to our house here and take family photographs.
WES: Ernest was like a father to Coby, so it was easyto track him. He passed along his new addresses when Coby briefly moved toLouisiana and he handed over to the FBI Coby's phone number and of course, IDphotos.
ACTOR AS BILL LAWRENCE: Date 7/21/67 from SpecialAgent William H. Lawrence. Subject Coby Vernon Smith. Previous communication inthe file of Coby Vernon Smith and the SNCC file have indicated that Smithreturned to Memphis on or about 7/1/67 and generally had made statementsindicating that he would like to see a good race riot and was going to turnMemphis upside down. Since that time, efforts have been made to determinewhether or not Smith, as indicated, was going to form a SNCC chapter in Memphisand establish a Freedom House.
WES: Nope, not a SNCC chapter. Coby had another idea.He wanted to start a black power organization of his own. He got together withanother Memphis native, a Morehouse College student, a natural leader namedCharles Cabbage.
COBY SMITH: Cab was very persuasive. The girls likedCab. But he's very serious. Very thoughtful kind of fella. And we becameorganizers. We thought we had a great start.
WES: At the same time, Kobe was being drawn deeperinto the Black Power movement. Ernest was becoming more firmly planted withinthe FBI. The FBI was ramping up its surveillance.
NEWSCASTER: The worst race riots since those twoyears ago in the white section of Los Angeles rocked New Jersey's largest city,Newark, for five consecutive days and nights.
WES: In the summer of 1967. Riots broke out in citiesacross the country. Cities like Newark and Detroit.
NEWSCASTER: Looting and arson rocked the city ofDetroit in the worst outbreak of urban racial violence this year.
WES: After the riots, Ernest became part of a new FBIsurveillance effort called the Ghetto Informant Program, which had more than7000 informants embedded in urban centers across the country. And with the newposition came more assignments, more opportunities for a payday. Ernest wasassigned that confidential informant number that we talked about earlier in theseries. ME338R. In Memphis, a lot of what the FBI was learning about the newgeneration of young black militants was coming from Ernest Withers. Ernest knewCoby's parents. He gave him and Charles Cabbage advice. He loaned the money.
COBY SMITH: Cabbage had been an athlete. Ernest knewhim through sports and he knew me through being at all of the movementactivities.
WES: He even let the men hard at work on their newBlack Power organization meet at his studio.
COBY SMITH: We were walking down Beale Street, andErnest said, Coby come over. You and Cab, come over here. Come over here andpose for a picture. He took us across the street.
ACTOR AS BILL LAWRENCE: Ernest C Withers.Confidential Source. Memphis, Tennessee A professional photographer madeavailable to writer copies of photographs he had taken on 8/10/67 as follows. 7copies of photographs of Charles Laverne Cabbage, Male Negro, 234 Ingle Street,Memphis, Tennessee.
WES: In August 1967, Ernest handed the FBI 16 newphotos of Charles Cabbage and Coby Smith, including the ones taken at hisstudio.
ACTOR AS BILL LAWRENCE: Withers took these photosunder the pretext that he was going to send them to Jet magazine, a Negropublication which was potentially interested in the story concerning Smith andCabbage. As noted above, both photos were taken on 8/10/67 and are excellentlikenesses of Cabbage and Smith.
COBY SMITH: We didn't know he was also selling thosepictures to the FBI, but Ernest was quite an enterprising person.
WES: By early 1968, the two men, Cab and Coby hadformed the Black Organizing project the BOP. It was modeled after the BlackPanther Party, and it called for a black run school board for black policepatrolling their neighborhoods and for black economic independence. Theyrecruited black kids from the neighborhoods. The advocated against gangviolence and the kids liked their style black shades, afros, military jackets.They adopted the name of a popular sci fi TV show, The Invaders.
TV ANNOUNCER: The Invaders.
WES: Coby says they were like aliens to thecommunity, as if they had just landed a spaceship and gotten off. The Invaderswere high schoolers and college students and other young people on the fringes.Some of them showed up with rap sheets.
WES: Oh, what is this?
COBY SMITH: This is a vest jacket that the invaderswill wear.
WES: Coby and I are talking in his home in Memphis atthe house he's lived in all his life. He shows me an old jacket folded tightlyinside a glass frame and hung on the wall like a retired flag. It's green withinvaders written on the back in bright yellow letters.
COBY SMITH: Used to have army fatigues.
WES: And so you all looked pretty militant.
COBY SMITH: Oh, yeah. We were pretty militant.
COBY SMITH: Oh, yeah.
WES: Was that the point?
COBY SMITH: Well, not really. We weighed 100 andmaybe 150 pounds. How intimidating wouldkids who weighed 150 pouns be to you?
WES: It depends how many of them are there? You camewith a few hundred buddies, maybe.
COBY SMITH: Well, they were pretty intimidating. Allyou had to do to say you were invaders was wear Tiki around your neck, let yourhair grow, come to our meetings. At the meetings, we would let people makedecisions about whether they wanted to join us and join the army.
WES: What was the ideology of the invaders?
COBY SMITH: Black power was the ideology. The numberscount. If we have numbers, then we ought to be in control.
WES: Control was exactly what the FBI was worriedabout. This was a new radicalized generation of black activist. Young activistswho had no problem challenging authority. But law enforcement weren't the onlyones who wanted the invaders gone. So did some of the local civil rightsleaders. That conflict after the break.
WES: February 1st, 1968, was a cold, wet day inMemphis. And so Echol Cole, a 36 year old sanitation worker, climbed into theback of his garbage truck trying to get out of the rain. Suddenly an electricalshort activated the trash compactor. A crewmate, Robert Walker, tried to pullCole to safety. Instead, both men were swept into the truck and crushed.
BOBBY: And when that happened, everything hit thefan.
WES: 11 days later, the city's mostly blacksanitation workers went on strike. Activists in Memphis were eager to supportthem. But the question of how would lay bare the divisions within the movement.Bobby Doctor was a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, anindependent government agency charged with investigating and reporting on civilrights issues. He was in Memphis to monitor racial tensions there.
BOBBY: The sanitation workers were poorly paid. Theywere poorly respected. They were poorly recognized. They sought immediaterecognition, immediate increase in salary. And we had a strong mayor who wasagainst all of that for them.
WES: The city's black ministers organized a strikefund for the workers. They held rallies and sit ins. They picketed city halland they were met by police, mace, billy clubs and tear gas. Memphis MayorHenry Loeb wouldn't budge.
BOBBY: The civil rights community took the lead role.But the key and the mistake they made was they didn't involve the young people,the militants. And that was a tremendous mistake.
WES: When you say the militant community, who are youtalking about?
BOBBY: I'm mainly talking about the invaders. Theywere basically a gang that was doing all sorts of things in the city of Memphisat that time. But they were yearning to become a civil rights organization.
WES: The ministers concentrated on negotiating a settlementwith the city's white leadership. But the invaders wanted something bigger.They wanted more self-determination. They wanted to disrupt the status quo.Here's Bobby Doctor again.
BOBBY: And, of course, I sought to bring together thetwo factions of the civil rights community as best I could.
WES: At first, the ministers, people like theReverend James Lawson, reluctantly accepted the invaders at their massmeetings.
BOBBY: James Lawson was one of the brightest civilrights experts I've ever met. To be honest with you, he had a good mind. ButJames had a problem with militants. He had a problem with militants. And so heoften had confrontations with them.
JAMES LAWSON: The invaders attitude was not anattitude of pulling the community together.
WES: James Lawson is now 93 years old, but his recallis incredible. You might call him a living treasure of the civil rightsmovement. He was one of the architects of nonviolent direct action. And at thetime of the sanitation workers strike, that's what he was pushing.
JAMES LAWSON: Invaders, they represented young kidswho growing up are exposed to the racism and are wildly against that. But theyhave misunderstand it. They are more cultural entities than they are anintellectual or spiritual perspective in this struggle. I'm very clear aboutthis now.
WES: If it can be said that the established civilrights community in Memphis was generally condescending towards the invaders,the young militants didn't hide their disdain for the ministers either.
JOHN B SMITH: They really didn't want to be involvedwith black power at all. And so their effort was to ignore our presence.
WES: This is John B Smith, no relation to Coby Smith,except that John was also a leader of the invaders and one of the group's morevocal members.
JOHN B SMITH: You had the old line leaders and NAACPand the preachers. They had supported segregation in Memphis. I mean, they werenot out advocating it, but they benefited from it. And it was a system thatworked well for them. And we came along talking about destroying that system.And so we really were in opposition to them, even though we were supposed to beon the same side.
WES: Ernest Withers had a front row seat to thisgrowing divide. He was feeding a constant stream of details to the FBI in amemo dated February 27th, 1968. EARNEST described a scene where John B Smithstands and tells the striking sanitation workers, "You better get someguns. Get your guns. You're going to need them before this is over. You can'tpray your way out."
JOHN B SMITH: It went over like a bomb. Once Ifinished speaking, Reverend Lawson jumped to the podium and disavowed anyconnection to me. They were about nonviolence and that they should listen towhat I have to say because they were not about black power.
WES: In another memo dated March 6th, 1968. Ernestreported that dozens of members of the invaders had showed up to a strikersmeeting. They were wearing their military style jackets. They passed outpamphlets that included instructions on how to make a molotov cocktail. Bythen, the sanitation worker strike in Memphis had caught the attention of Dr.King. His work and activism had become more and more focused on poor people andeconomic justice. And that's exactly what these men this campaign represented.
MLK JR: You are reminding the nation that it is acrime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages.
WES: On March 18th, King came to Memphis to lend hissupport. More than 25,000 people showed up for a rally.
MLK JR: Saying for you to do is stay together andsave everybody in this community, that you are going to stick it out to the enduntil every demand is met and that you gonna say, we ain't gonna let nobodyturn us around!
WES: King promised to return to lead the protest. Buton the scheduled day, March 22nd, 17 inches of snow fell on Memphis. A new datewas set. March 28th.
NEWSCASTER: Later today, as the march moves up towardCity Hall, Dr. Martin Luther King will speak to the striking workers and theirsympathizers, now estimated somewhere between 5 and 8000.
WES: The invaders had been shut out of the planningfor the march, and they're full of resentment. The night before they vote toboycott.
JOHN B SMITH: I had decided not to go that night. Butwhen I got up the next morning, it's like, I mean, how would you not go? Thisis the biggest thing that has happened in terms of civil rights in Memphis.
NEWSCASTER: Dr. Martin Luther King's massive downtownmarch on Memphis is now underway. Several thousand Negroes are marching towardCity Hall at this time. Many of the demonstrators are carrying the sign I Am aMan.
WES: Things are a mess from the beginning. Dr. King'splane arrives late and the marchers an hour behind. The crowd surges and thenit stalls as it turns on to Main Street. People everywhere are holding those IAm a Man signs on those wooden sticks.
JOHN B SMITH: They also made a huge mistake of staplein these I Am a Man posters to sticks and that gave everybody clubs that wantedone. I mean it was like a carnival atmosphere. And when we started, we walkedon the sidewalk because we were not a part of the mob. Well, people in the mobthat looked up and saw the invaders going down the sidewalk started getting outof the bar and getting in the line behind the invaders. And when we got to 2ndStreet, the march stopped.
NEWSCASTER: Chaos had just broken out downtown. Allright. Negro users smashing windows.
BILL ATKINS: And it went violent and it was bloodyviolent.
WES: That's Bill Atkins. He was one of the marchersthat day.
BILL ATKINS: Police were extremely brutal, extremelybrutal. They beat down, hurt, wounded man, woman, child, elderly. It did notmatter if you got in their way. You got whooped. I always tell the story. ThinkI ran farhter that day that I ever have in my life.
WES: Ernest is right in the mayhem and hisphotographs tell the story moment by momen. Store window shattered by young menusing wooden sticks, bricks and pipes. The police, with their nightsticks,wearing gas masks, people fleeing in every direction. Dozens are hospitalizedand a 16 year old named Larry Payne is shot and killed by police.
NEWSCASTER: Memphis streets drive by, as far as wecan see, are littered with signs that these demonstrators were carrying and thedemonstration got under way. So we looked down the sidewalk on Fernando infront of Clayborn Temple. I see signs saying, I Am a Man.
WES: The finger pointing begins immediately. AgentBill Lawrence drafts a memo to FBI Director Hoover blaming the ministers likeJames Lawson for having unwittingly armed the crowd with the wooden sticks fromthose signs. Others blame King. They accuse him of having abandoned the marchleading to chaos. But most of the blame lands on the invaders. Police, clergy,movement leaders, the media, all of them accuse the invaders of sabotaging themarch. And with all their talk of fighting and guns and Molotov cocktails withtheir criminal records, their Afros and tiki tops, even the phrase black power.It's not surprising that they were the ones who drew the most scrutiny. Let'sface it. It wouldn't be the first or the last time that young black protesterswould be blamed for looting and for breaking windows. Reading through the FBIreports about the march. At first, it seems like Ernest Withers was alsopointing a finger at the Invaders.
ACTOR AS BILL LAWRENCE: Memo dated March 29, 1968.
WES: In a long memo written the day after the march.Bill Lawrence wrote that Ernest told him
ACTOR AS BILL LAWRENCE: That prior to the start ofthe March 28, 1968 March, that John Smith and some of his associates were, inhis opinion, inciting to violence, in that they were indiscriminately givingout the four foot pine poles to various teenage youngsters in the area. AndJohn Smith was heard by source one to tell these youngsters identities notknown, not to be afraid to use these sticks.
WES: But then in another memo, Ernest told the FBIthis.
ACTOR AS BILL LAWRENCE: There is no evidence that anyof the BOP group participated in the looting. And in fact, source one who isparticularly close to this group advised that he saw many of them after theinitial rioting and looting started. And they definitely had not personallybeen involved in the looting.
WES: The invaders themselves denied having anyresponsibility for the violence. Bobby, Doctor, from the U.S. Civil RightsCommission says he knew all of the invaders. He worked with them and he didn'trecognize any of the young men who were breaking windows. None of them wereinvaders.
BOBBY: Not one of them did I recognize, and some ofthem even had suits and ties on. And the militants in Memphis never wore suits.And they used to tease me about wearing a suit and a tie, which is why I knowthey were shipped in. They were not local. I can assure you of that.
WES: What Bobby is hinting at is the idea that therewas some kind of plot to sabotage the march, that people were planted in themarch by an outside force. This is an idea that had legs. A decade later, acongressional committee would investigate and dismiss this theory. But when thenews eventually broke that Ernest had been an FBI informant, people started towonder if he had been involved in the march's demise.
BILL ATKINS: I really now blame Ernest Withers forthat. Totally.
WES: Bill Atkins believes Ernest was part of adeliberate plot by authorities to discredit Dr. King. After all we know it wasErnest who rented the saw that was used to make those sticks.
BILL ATKINS: Instead of just holding up the cardboardsigns. We had signs with wood on them. Of course, the wood was used to breakthe windows out of the pawn shops on Beale Street when the march began.
WES: This was a bit abnormal. Protest signs inMemphis were usually tied to a string and worn around a person's neck, notattached to a wooden stick.
BILL ATKINS: That was a plan. Ernest, set that up. Hebought that wood. He set that up. He set that march up to go violent.
WES: We don't know whose idea was to use the stickson the signs that day. And we don't know who the young men were who used thosesticks to break the store windows.
MLK JR: Nonviolence can be as contagious as violence.
WES: The next day, Dr. King faced a slew of nationalreporters and had the embarrassing task of explaining what had gone wrong inMemphis.
MLK JR: I'm convinced that it took place yesterdaybecause of a lack of marshals, because of a failure to communicate with groupsthat had been discussing in their inner chambers violence and because they feltthat they had been left out. They had nothing to do but bring them in. And by bringing them in, they distillltheir violent impulses and the emotions and the outpourings of a nonviolentmovement.
WES: Now, you and Charles Cabbage, you all meet withKing?
WES: After, after the riot breaks out?
WES: What was that meeting like?
EDWINA: It was really very sad.
WES: Edwina Harrell Lenore was the only woman leaderin the invaders. The day after the riot before Dr. King left Memphis, he metwith a few of them, including Edwina. She says that King wanted to reassurethem.
EDWINA: He knew that the things that happened weren'tour fault. It wasn't our fault. And he kept reminding us that we had to staydown. Out of sight. Remain low key as possible. And even though things weregoing crazy and they were blaming us for all this stuff, he said just staycalm. It was hard to listen to because when you're doing something, you'reblaming people for stuff they didn't do. It's painful.
WES: Dr. King vowed to return to Memphis. He had toreturn. He had to make good on a peaceful demonstration. He couldn't let theworld believe that nonviolent direct action had lost its relevance, had lostits effectiveness.
EDWINA: On the way back to Memphis, he seemed to haveovercome his depression and was his old self again. And Iwas really teasing usand joking, and there was no fear or anxiety on his part.
WES: What King couldn't have known then was that thismarch in Memphis, the one that turned into a riot, would be the lastdemonstration of his life. That's next time on Unfinished: Ernie's Secret.
WES: This season of Unfinished is aco-production of Stitcher and Scripps. Our senior producer is Roy Hurst. Theeditor is Tracy Samuelson. Our show was written by Ellen Weiss. Executiveproducers are Kameel Stanley and Ellen Weiss. Our music is composed by Edward“Tex” Miller. Mixing is by Casey Holford. Special thanks to reporter and authorMarc Perrusquia for sharing documents, sources, and his years of work on thisstory. Marc is the author of the book A Spy in Canaan: How the FBI Used aFamous Photographer to Infiltrate the Civil Rights Movement. He’s currentlythe director at the Institute for Public Service Reporting at the University ofMemphis.
Thanks also to the WGBH archives. We had productionhelp from Mckenna Smith and Suzanne Reburn. Our FBI documents were brought tolife by actor Corey Landis. Fact checking was by Kelvin Bias. Stitcher’s VicePresident of Content is Peter Clowney. If you like the show and believe in thiskind of storytelling, please give us a five star review on Apple Podcasts.It’ll help more people discover Unfinished. I’m Wesley Lowery, thanksfor listening.