Statement | Washington, DC | April 4, 2018

Fifty Years After Dr. King’s Death: Tell the Full History

Statement by Stephanie K. Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Today, on the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, the following is a statement by Stephanie K Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation:

“In the fifty years since Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. was taken from us, we have come to recognize, embrace, and honor him as one of our nation’s most inspiring and insightful moral leaders, who helped lead the civil rights movement with compassion, magnanimity, and an unequivocal commitment to justice and peace through non-violence.

“But even with the many streets named after him and a federal holiday honoring him, it is not enough simply to canonize this great leader. To truly do right by Dr. King and his vision, we must, imbued with a spirit of humility, reflect on all the ways we are still falling short of his dream of equality and justice for all Americans.

“Both the values Dr. King fought for and the injustices he railed against resonate throughout our society today – in classrooms and boardrooms, protests and playing fields – and in our understanding of our own past. That’s why we are committed to answering a call now being heard all over our nation: to preserve the full American narrative in a way that expands our view of history and, ultimately, helps to reflect the true diversity of our national identity. By telling the full American story, honoring the diverse contributions of all our ancestors, and drawing attention to the remarkable—and still largely unrecognized—collection of places and stories of African American activism and achievement all around us, we can inspire a new generation of activists and help to forge a stronger, more vibrant, and more just American future.

“Whether it’s the Sweet Auburn neighborhood where Dr. King was born and raised, the AG Gaston Motel in Birmingham where he and his lieutenants chartered a plan forward, homes of other civil rights leaders like the brilliant activist Pauli Murray, or Clayborn Temple in Memphis, where Dr. King sought to raise up the voices of sanitation workers striking for justice in the week of his death, historic places remind us not just of the remarkable men and women who came before us. They remind us of the values Dr. King fought for and the journey we are still on together. And they inspire us to do our part, now in our time, to tell the American story truthfully and in full.

“Dr. King often expressed a crucial fact about America: our history is the story we use to explain ourselves and define our community, so we have to get it right. If our national story excludes more people than it lets in, we will never know equality, justice, or peace. Our responsibility today is to tell the full American story in all its range and richness, and we are committed to it.”


The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund is a multi-year initiative led by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in partnership with the Ford Foundation, The JPB Foundation, the Open Society Foundations and other partners, working to make an important and lasting contribution to our cultural landscape by elevating the stories and places of African American achievement and activism. To learn more visit:


The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places. | @savingplaces

Join the movement to save and sustain historic African American places. The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund will help every American see themselves, their history, and their potential in our collective story and national cultural landscape.

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