April 4 marks the 50th anniversary of one of Indiana’s shining moments in the darkness of a national tragedy.
On April 4, 1968, Robert Kennedy was campaigning in Indiana for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. That evening, he flew to Indianapolis for a planned inner-city rally. Upon landing, he was informed that Martin Luther King, Jr., had been assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.
Told that riots had broken out in other cities and advised not to go, Kennedy proceeded to the park at 17th and Broadway where a crowd of mostly African-Americans had gathered. When he arrived, he realized most had not yet heard the tragic news of King’s death.
Instead of a campaign speech, he broke the news to audible gasps and cries. And then, he gave a short improvised, impassioned talk asking for peace, wisdom, compassion and prayers in the face of such violence. In the wake of King’s death, violence broke out in some 60 other cities across the country that night. Indianapolis was one of the lone larger cities that experienced calm. Many attribute that to Kennedy’s call for peace and prayer.
Parts of his impromptu speech were later inscribed on his own memorial at Arlington National Cemetery after the senator’s assassination two months later in Los Angeles. Some consider it one of the greatest modern speeches in the English language.
To commemorate the date, April 4 events at the site of the speech, now home to the Landmark for Peace Memorial at 1702 N. Broadway St., will include civil rights pioneer John Lewis and Kerry Kennedy, daughter of RFK, and other dignitaries.
DOWNLOAD an 11×17 inch PDF mini-poster of this photo with some of the encouraging words Kennedy spoke that night.