Interview with Harry Belafonte

The we lost him. Where were you when you found out he was killed?


I was in my home and, ah, it was, it was, it was--unacceptable. Although I had often discussed death with Dr. King, as a matter fact one time on NBC when I hosted the Tonight Show, ah, Dr. King was one of the guests. I hosted it for a week and it was quite a week, Bobby Kennedy, Dr. King and, and a lot of political, it was, Dr. King was, he had, he had come late to the show and he said, ah, he said, I'd like you to forgive me for being late, we were on the air, he said, I'd like you to forgive me for being late, he said, because, ah, but, ah, the plane was late and I got to the airport and the driver was trying to get here on time and he was cutting some corners and beating some lights that, ah, that made me say to him, Look, young man, I'd rather be Dr. Martin Luther King late than be the late Dr. Martin Luther King. Could you just drive a little, ah, let's be late. It was with that handle that I then said to Dr. King, death is very much in your arena. Death is very present in your life. It is very present in the lives of anyone who is a follower of yours in all the campaigns. How do you, how do you come to grips with it? And, ah, he went on to, ah, give a full explanation as to his view of death and this was particularly revealing on the show because, it not only gave him a chance to speak to the issues of his family, but Dr. King had a, a psychological problem in that he had a tic, a hiccup. He would get this tic and it would come upon him and he would suffer with it for a given period of time. I mean in, in a matter of minutes and it was quite difficult and, ah, we had noticed it and talked about it and it was obviously psychological and then after a while we discovered that this wasn't there any more and I said to Dr. King, "What happened?" And he said, "I've come to grips with death. I've come to grips with that." And it was in that context that we then talked about it. He had come to grips with it because he believed that he could not clearly make decisions that had to be made in what to do if a preemptor was a concern for life in its, in, in, in, in, under any condition, death, in other words. That, ah, he had to put in place not only the possibility of his own death but the death of his wife, the death of his children, the death of those who were his followers, the death of those who may be in a march, at any moment. And he had to deal with this responsibility. And, ah, I think that when he went and said, you know, I've been on the mountain top, I don't know that he was alluding to anything terribly specific, although he could have been. I think he was alluding to a host of conclusions and decisions that he had arrived at because he saw a new day in where he was going and where the movement was going and what had to be done. I think that's what he saw, ah, on the mountain top.