Lesson Plan: Last Days of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis

Ryan Jones, Historian National Civil Rights Museum, talks about the circumstances leading to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s visit in Memphis before he was assassinated.


On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. In this lesson, students will hear about the conditions in Memphis prior to his death, visit the hotel room where the incident occurred and see the various reactions from people in Memphis and around the country.


  • Step 1:

    Students may use the accompanying handout to take notes as they view the videos in this lesson and engage in class discussion.

    Handout: Last Days of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Google Doc)

    View the following video clip to provide students with background information on the conditions in Memphis in 1968 prior to Dr. King's assassination. Use the questions below to guide class discussion.

    Video Clip 1: 1968: Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis (3:00)

    1. Describe the shift in the Civil Rights movement that occurred in the country after the assassination of Malcolm X.

    2. How did this change affect Martin Luther King, Jr.?

    3. Describe how the city of Memphis had changed when Martin Luther King, Jr. arrived in 1968.

    4. Explain his position on the Vietnam War.
  • Step 2:

    View the video below and have students respond to the accompanying questions to learn about the circumstances surrounding the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Video Clip 2: Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Assassination (8:13)

    Ryan Jones talks about the events leading up to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination in Memphis on April 4, 1968. He speaks from the location where Dr. King was shot at the Lorraine Motel.

    1. What was the Sanitation Workers Strike?

    2. Explain Martin Luther King Jr.'s role in the march following the strike.

    3. Describe the rally at the Mason Temple where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his 'Mountaintop' speech.

    4. Explain the circumstances that occurred at the Lorraine Hotel on April 4, 1968.
  • Step 3:

    As a class, view the video and questions below to engage students in a discussion on the reactions among people in the country to Dr. King's death and its impact on Memphis.

    Video Clip 3: Reaction to the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. (4:32)

    Noelle Trent, Director of Collections and Education, National Civil Rights Museum, talks about how Memphis and the country dealt with Martin Luther King, Jr.'s death.

    1. Explain the various ways people reacted to the assassination of Dr. King.

    2. Describe the significance of the rally Memphis Cares.
  • Step 4:

    Have students select a culminating activity to share their understanding of the situation in Memphis prior to the assassination of Dr. King, how the city has evolved over time and the impact of Martin Luther King. They should include information from their notes.

    As a journalist, write a newspaper article detailing the events that unfolded.

    Be a television reporter and use your phone to record your coverage of the events that are happening in the city.

    Create a journal entry describing the events from the perspective of a resident in the Memphis.

Additional Resources


  • Black Panther Party
  • Civil Rights Act Of 1964
  • Ideology
  • Injunction
  • Jim Crow
  • Militant
  • Poor People’s Campaign
  • Sanitation Workers Strike
  • Segregationist
  • Southern Christian Leadership Conference
  • Stokely Carmichael
  • The Silent March
  • Urban
  • Vietnam War
  • Voting Rights Act Of 1965


Civil Rights & Civil LibertiesU.S. History


Middle SchoolHigh SchoolUniversity