Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. | St. Louis Public Radio

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Harvard University’s Jonathan Walton will discuss “Religion at a Conversation Starter! Embracing King’s Political Philosophy of ‘Somebodiness’” on Tuesday, April 17, at Wash U.
Jeffrey Blackwell | Harvard University

Religion and politics don’t always pair well, and both have a reputation as conversation stoppers. But so much of the work of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. occurred at the intersection of those two often-avoided topics, and his efforts were part of a tradition that lives on.

“I’m thinking, for example, of folks here in St. Louis, names like Rev. Traci Blackmon, Rabbi Susan Talve,” said Lerone Martin, a Washington University faculty member who joined St. Louis on the Air on Thursday for a discussion of King’s legacy. “And even more broadly in the U.S. we can think about someone like Rev. [William] Barber, who’s trying to plan a poor people’s campaign in a similar tradition and vein.”

Longtime St. Louisans (from left) Mike Jones, Jamala Rogers and Virvus Jones joined Wednesday’s show to reflect on the impact of what occurred on April 4, 1968.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Mike Jones remembers being “shocked but not surprised” when he heard that Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had been murdered.

The assassination of the civil rights leader occurred a half-century ago this week in Memphis, Tennessee, when Jones was a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

“The forces in America that have been against black progress have always taken black lives,” Jones said during a St. Louis on the Air conversation marking the 50-year anniversary of King’s death. “Black lives have always had less value in America. And men and women who actually fight for that kind of change usually do not live to be old men or old women, so no, you wouldn’t be surprised.”