Interview with Juanita Abernathy

Now, could you tell me again about the last night that Dr. King had dinner at your house here in Atlanta. It was after the Memphis march, and if you could make reference to the fact that it was after the Memphis march, I'd appreciate it.


OK. The, the, the, the march had--They'd had the violence at the march in Memphis. And he and Ralph had decided that they were going to take us out to dinner. So instead of going out to dinner Martin called and asked me that afternoon if he brought the fish would I cook it? So I told him, yes, I'd cook it. But he didn't have to bring fish to my house. He said, "Oh, no. I'll bring the fish." He went and got the fish and it was croaker. We like croaker fish. And ah, he and Coretta came over. And I cooked. I fried fish all night it seemed. But really, I fried fish and fried fish and more fish and more fish. And um, we ate the fish. But he wanted to come here because if you go to a restaurant then you got to answer questions about, well, what happened to the march? Why the violence? And, and he was not in the kind of mood to, you know, to deal with answering those questions because--Dr. King was very sensitive about anything that was in opposition to what his philosophy was. And he didn't want anybody identifying him with the violence that had taken place, 'cause you know some of it was done by us, by Blacks. And um, that hurt. And he just sort of felt that you know, part of his reputation had been damaged and tarnished a bit. So he didn't want to have to deal with answering questions on that. And coming here, he would not encounter that. So we sat that night. And talked about light things. And talked about me. And talked about Ralph. We talked about each other. Talked about the movement. Talked about folk in it. And just, just, just chitter-chat. But nothing serious. And we did not talk about Memphis. The news came on. And whenever there was a flash on TV about it he got very quiet and he was really, really sort of depressed. And I think he was more depressed that night I believe than I'd ever seen him, because--the violence really got to him that, that took place in Memphis. That really got to him. And, we stayed away from it as much as possible. But naturally, the minute a news flash came on his ears sharpened. And he forgot we were even in the room then. But then we would again take him away from that kind of thinking as much as possible, until we all fell asleep. And everybody balled up on the sofa. There were two love seats here. He was on one love seat and Ralph was on the other. Coretta was on the sofa in the living room. And we all just fell asleep in different parts of the house. And we literally slept here all night. But he was really, really depressed over the violence that had taken place in Memphis. And I guess weighing heavy on him now that I look back was probably the fact that possibly he was nearing his end--because I sincerely believe he knew it. Because I think if you live close enough to God I don't think it slips up on you. You may not know exactly when but there's an inner feeling that lets you know you're near. And I think he knew it.


OK. Cut.