"RUN JESSE, RUN!"
"Run Jesse, Run!"
For a while now, I've wanted to creatively address the matter of Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr. bearing false witness to his personal accounts related to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968, on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN. Over the years, in conjunction with numerous inquiries about the matter, many have urged me to provide a more detailed explanation on the "peculiar" version of Rev. Jackson's activity surrounding MLK's death ... Let me declare that this story has been told before by individuals more qualified in the literary and research fields than me. However, this subject has yet to be transformed into an originative form of artistic expression ... Until now.
Before I go any further, let me state that in no way does this written description, my use of the phrase "Run Jesse, Run!," or the image/shirt imply or insinuate that Jesse Jackson had any direct or indirect involvement with the assassination of MLK. This assumption/accusation would be inaccurate. That is not what this is about. I do respect a healthy amount of Mr. Jackson's civil rights and political activism throughout the years.
However, as a reverent and grateful admirer of MLK's life and legacy, Jesse's "communicative activity" associated with the assassination of MLK has always disturbed me. Was a crime committed? No. The fact of the matter is - I've always been perplexed about his recollection of his movements on this dreadful day in history. We've all acted in error, and are not anywhere near perfect, but to relay distorted testimony surrounding the death of the honorable falls into a despicable jurisdiction of character.
So why the phrase "Run Jesse, Run!" Well, the phrase is a double entendre in a sense that refers to Jesse Jackson's slogan from his presidential campaign in 1984, but more importantly, it is a loud statement placed in my revolutionary imagination; cheering on MLK chasing the man who fabricated his "whereabouts" in association with the death of 1 of my heroes.
The following information discusses the lies that Jesse Jackson told regarding the MLK assassination, and states the revelations (primarily from the eyewitnesses to the assassination) that discounted Mr. Jackson's formulated report of what transpired on that tragic day.
On the cover of the April 6, 1970 issue of TIME magazine, the inside story pointed out: "Jackson was the last man King spoke to before he was shot in Memphis. Jesse ran to the balcony, held King's head, but it was too late." On April 8, 1968, the Chicago Defender reported: "Jackson, whose face appeared drawn, talked briefly with newsmen about the moments just before and after the shooting occurred. He said he rushed to Dr. King's side immediately, but got no response when he asked, "Doc, can you hear me?"
The November 1969 issue of Playboy magazine, after an in-depth interview with Jackson, labeled him the "fiery heir apparent to Martin Luther King." (NOTE: King named Ralph Abernathy his successor after JFK's assassination). It also said" "He was talking to King on the porch of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis when the fatal shot was fired and cradled the dying man in his arms."
Now, there were at least 100 articles that claimed that (1) Jackson cradled King on the balcony, that (2) he was the last man King spoke to before he died, or that (3) Jackson later attended a Chicago City Council meeting with the blood of King on his shirt.
These accounts were accepted as fact by many, except King's staff, who had been eyewitnesses to the assassination.
Here are their reactions from being interviewed about the assassination:
Hosea Williams, then voter registration project director for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC): "The only person who cradled Dr. King was Ralph Abernathy. The last man King spoke to was Solomon Jones. It'a helluva thing to capitalize on a man's death, especially one you professed to love."
Chauncey Eskridge, attorney for Dr. King:
"If anyone could have gotten blood on their clothes, other than Abernathy, it must have come from the balcony after King's body was removed. Jackson's appearance at Chicago's City Council with that blood on his shirt was not only depiction, but sacrilege. The City Council meeting offered him a public forum to be seen and heard, and that was what prompted him to appear."
Andy Young, SCLC executive director and former Georgia congressional representative:
"The blood, the cradling, were all things I read in the newspaper, and they are all mysteries to me."
The Rev. Ralph Abernathy, then VP and treasurer of SCLC:
"I am sure Rev. Jackson would not say to me that he cradled Dr. King. I am sure that Rev. Jackson would realize that I was the person who was on the balcony with Dr. King and did not leave his side until he was pronounced dead at St. Joseph's hospital in Memphis. I am sure that he would not say to me that he even came near Dr. King after Doc was shot."
Ben Branch, leader of Operation's Breadbasket band:
"My guess is Jesse smeared the blood on his shirt after getting it off the balcony. But who knows where he got it from. All I can say is that Jesse didn't touch him. I think that should answer it all."
Jesse Jackson was not up on the balcony with MLK. He was down in the parking lot with others. When the shots rang out, a few eyewitnesses reported that Jackson fled and hid behind the motel's swimming pool area, and reappeared approximately 20-30 minutes later when the television cameras arrived on the scene.
A photographer for the Public Broadcasting Library, documenting the Poor People's Campaign at the time, caught a pic of those individuals who were on the balcony seconds after the gun blast. They were pointing in the direction from where they thought the shots were fired, a two-story brick rooming house across the street. Jesse was not identified in the photos as being among them. (The particular photo of Jesse and King on the balcony was actually taken on the day before the assassination).
The morning after the assassination, Mr. Jackson was in Chicago and went on the NBC "Today Show" wearing the same bloody turtleneck he had worn the day before. On the show, he appeared in this shirt and he said on national television, "He died in my arms."
"I thought it was ironic," Chauncey Eskridge said, "here we were prepared to go get King's body from the funeral home - the whole staff - except Jesse. While we're getting the body, he was making news.
While there is much more detailed information on this topic that I can share, let me end this communication by providing you with a quote by Hosea Williams, based on his personal account on the immediate aftermath of the assassination.
"I was in my room. I looked out and saw Jesse talking to these TV people. I came out to hear what was being said. I heard Jesse say, 'Yes, I was the last man in the world King spoke to.' I knew Jesse was lying because Solomon Jones was the one and I had a feeling about what Jesse was trying to pull. I climbed over the railing and was going to stomp him into the ground, but a cop grabbed me. I called Jesse a dirty, stinking, lying so-and-so, or something like that. I don't remember the exact words. What I did was wrong I guess, but I am a very high-tempered man. I had no hang-ups about Jesse talking to the press. Than was okay, but why lie? Why capitalize on another man's name and image - a dead man, who can't speak up for himself."
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