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The irony of it has been repeated over and over again. The symbol of the American non-violent civil rights movement has been struck down in violence. Dead is the leader of those Negroes who hoped to salvage some kind of peace between the races from the bitter violence that is as old as this country itself. The death of the Nobel Peace Prize winner has left a void in the civil rights movement that may be more difficult to fill than was ever realized.
The important thing is that the ideals for which he stood do not die with him. "Let his death not be in vain . . ." has been the cry raised by millions of Negroes whose dream of a non-violent battle for racial freedom was carried by King. The largest crowds ever to gather in a civil rights cause have been seen by countless communities across the country. An estimated 500 students, faculty, and townspeople attended a Memorial service for the late King earlier this week in Parker Auditorium.
There seems to be a contagious fear behind these marches and memorial services-a fear that they must keep marching, keep mourning lest anyone forget. Unfortunate though it is, it may well be that King's death will be the act that will shock whites across the country into the realization that Negroes want an answer now. It seems, however, that the more negative seniment is prevailing. Many feel that it was the last straw. Negro students in the University of Kenucky's Black Student Union said: "they have killed the cat who was the epitome of non-violence in this country," and "You can mark my word that it is going to be a long, hot, summer-hotter than before."
We are here at Hanover to learn about the society we live in, and what are we to think when a great man like King must die for that society to realize the value of his ideals. The announcement of King's assassination was met with a paradoxical kind of shock. Though it was difficult for us to believe that King had been murdered, we were not surprised, for we knew that he himself expected to die.
We wonder, though, what really lies behind the nation's grief. Whether you admired Martin Luther King or not, he was generally accepted as the one remaining bridge over the widening gap of race relations. It was generally accepted that it was he alone who stood to balance the likes of Rap Brown, Stokely Carmichael and the Black Power Movement. Is it just that he is gone, and now there is no one to turn to? Martin Luther King, at least, allowed us some relieved anxiety when riots raged throughout the summer. He stood for hope.
Now we must worry. Who will take over? What are we going to do?