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A sample article from SPECTRUM, April 1998 - advanced level English

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    On the night of April 4th 1968, someone was waiting opposite the windows of the Lorraine Motel, in downtown Memphis.
    In front of the motel, a big white Cadillac was parked; it was the car in which the Rev. Martin Luther King was being driven round, as he traveled through the southern states, speaking to audiences in towns and cities, promoting the cause of non-violence and civil rights.
    When King stepped out onto the balcony, to take a breath of fresh air after eating his dinner, a shot rang out. The civil rights leader and Nobel-prizewinner, the man who preached non-violence, fell to the ground, fatally wounded. Within minutes, he was dead.
    The news spread like wildfire round the USA; the man who had done more, perhaps, than any other to further the rights of Black people in the United States of America, had been assassinated, it seemed, by a lone sniper, a white extremist. Weeks later a man by the name of James Earl Ray was arrested and sentenced to 99 years in prison for the assassination.

    But is that really what happened?
    Though James Earl Ray initially confessed to killing King, it was not long before he retracted his statement; and to this day, there are those who do not believe that Ray was actually guilty of the crime for which he has now spent almost 30 years behind bars.
    Indeed, the calls for Ray's release have been growing stronger by the year, to the point that even Dexter King, Martin Luther King's son, now believes that Ray was not his father's assassin.
    But if Ray did not do the deed, who did? And why? Was it just a pure racist crime? Or was this a political assassination ordered by some faceless figures in some secret service? The theory that King was really assassinated by the Secret Service has been growing more and more popular over recent years, and was even the subject of an "X-Files" episode. So how real is the conspiracy theory? And what reasons might anyone other than a racist have had to get rid of a charismatic and peaceful leader like Martin Luther King?

    We have to take ourselves back to 1968. Since 1955, King had been at the front of the Civil Rights movement in the USA. He had given great support to the year-long bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, which eventually led to the desegregation of public transportation; he had used his skills as a passionate orator to inspire black people to stand up for their rights, in housing, education and other civil rights; and he had gained the backing of a growing number of whites. He was in the front line of the anti-segregation demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963, which probably did more than any other protest to further the cause of civil rights.
    During his brief presidency from 1960 to 1963, Kennedy paved the way for a Civil Rights Act, which would officially ban race-based segregation throughout the USA. Though Kennedy was gunned down before he had time to put the act through Congress, Lyndon Johnson completed the job, and by the end of 1964, the Civil Rights Act was law, and Martin Luther King had won the Nobel Prize for Peace.
    Racism, however, had not disappeared. More laws, including the 1968 Civil Rights Act, were needed to fully eradicate all forms of official racism. But even then, laws could not change the deep-seated bigotry of many southern whites; the more Civil Rights laws were passed, the more some racist groups felt threatened.
    1968 was a crisis year in many countries. The Civil Rights movement in the USA had more or less merged with the anti-Vietnam War movement. Black leaders like King were being joined by the pacifist gurus of a new generation of educated young white Americans, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. At the same time, in the black ghettoes of the rustbelt cities, a new and more aggressive movement had emerged: Black Power.
    In the opinion of some observers, America was slowly sliding towards civil unrest on a large scale. Though King, with his non-violence, was no supporter of civil conflict, he was the no.1 figurehead of black America. Hence the conspiracy theory.
    According to the theory, King was assassinated by the government (whoever that may have been) to prevent the USA from severe civil conflict. A week before King was assassinated, a peaceful march in Memphis had been provoked into violence by a gang called "the Invaders". Nobody knows who was behind the Invaders - but someone was.
    James Earl Ray admits that he was involved in the assassination of King, but claims that he was part of a plot, the dumb guy who was used by others who tricked him into it. He claims that the gun that killed King was actually fired by a man called "Raoul" - but who Raoul was no one knows. Dexter King, who has studied events surrounding his father's death in the minutest detail, now believes that Ray is telling the truth.
    Last July, a judge in Memphis announced that new scientific tests suggest that it was not Ray's gun that fired the bullet that killed King.
    So if it was "Raoul", not Ray, that really assassinated Martin Luther King, why did he do it, and on whose orders? Was it the CIA, or some other secret organization, nervous about rising black militantism and opposition to the Vietnam war? Or was King's assassination masterminded by some secret white supremacist organisation?
    Maybe we will know one day, maybe not.
(Post script: James Earl Ray  died shortly after this article was published)

shot: , gunshot, sound of a gun being shot - further to promote,  to develop -retracted   withdrew, denied, took back - release   liberation, freedom, - deed  act, action, something that is done, -get rid of    eliminate, kill - backing support, help - act  law   -eradicate eliminate, remove -bigotry narrow-mindedness, people with narrow and fixed ideas, extremism - rustbelt The Rustbelt is the part of the USA (from Chicago to Virginia) where old fashioned heavy industries have gone into decline -masterminded organized, planned

The  exercises below are samples of those that can be found on the worksheet pages of Spectrum or in the Spectrum Teachers Supplement, provided free with all multiple subscriptions to Spectrum magazine.

Teachers:more articles will be available on this website absolutely free, together with free teaching notes, as from September 2001..

MARTIN LUTHER KING  Exercises and classroom use:
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