Interview with Harry Belafonte
QUESTION 35
INTERVIEWER:

How did you feel on the day you found out he was lost?

HARRY BELAFONTE:

The first thing that hit me, ah, with, with his death was--disbelief, then swiftly pulling up on mechanism that put that into reality. Because the first report was that, it was just that he was shot. And then, ah, not too long after that, word came that he was dead. My wife and I were there and we, you know, the tears came and welled up but there was not much time for that part of it. I got on the phone immediately, after the first thing that he had just been shot, and do what I always did, was to call Coretta and the children, first off, to make, to identify where they were, whether he was incarcerated in prison or in this instance like this. My, I always called the family to just make sure that I knew where they were and what conditions they were in and what was, what would be needed. Was Coretta in, in Arkansas? Was she in California? Was she with the kids? Where were the kids? So that, because Dr. King, one of the things that I, was done to give them peace of mind was for him to know that his, his family would never be left without a lot of attention and care. So that--


HARRY BELAFONTE:

The level of aggression, just clapping sticks and making noise.


HARRY BELAFONTE:

The giving in to the loss of Dr. King erupted but only in moments. The real sense of grieving about him did not come for, for me, I think for my wife and a lot of others until later. The act and the, and the nature of the violence of it put everything in such jeopardy because of the grief that a lot of us immediately turned our attention to, to not let this moment destroy everything that we had worked for because anger, which was obviously quite justified, would have to be directed towards the immediate objectives and towards goals that we had, things we could achieve as a collective, rather than being left unattended because it would then do what in some places started to evidence itself, in Washington, in Watts and other places, when, when the country was going up in flames. So that, when I flew immediately to Atlanta, ah, not only was there a lot that to be done in terms of, ah, there was just a, an invasion of people and faces and things that we never heard from, never knew before, all kinds of people, many of whom we had been trying to reach to help give us access to our, to, to the success of our cause, all of a sudden, came to the fore, ah, almost as if it was a photo opportunity in a way. I don't mean to discredit many who came for it out of real genuine will. But there were others who saw in it a time that, that, that it could be manipulated. So we had to do what we could do to sort out those whom were going to be the manipulators, those who had to be put in place immediately to help move on with the Poor People's Campaign and a host of other issues, ah, ah, and for a personal, private conversation that I had with Coretta King to talk with her about going to Memphis, to being there, to picking up with the garbage workers and to carry on the campaign in just a matter of two days later, ah, two or three days. Ah, and the discussion that we had with the family about the appropriateness of that and everybody agreed that it was appropriate. So, I, I arranged for a plane and all kinds of things to give Coretta mobility and to give others mobility, so that people would, in the midst of the grief, still be committed to the movement and to see that the fallen Dr. King did not leave behind a movement that, that was going to abandoned. There were all these disciples, all these people who had been in, in place, Hosea Williams, Andy Young, Jesse Jackson, ah, ah, Stony Cooks, ah.