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Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke Delivers Remarks on the 55th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Assassination at the National Civil Rights Museum


Memphis, TN
United States

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Good afternoon. The day before his assassination, Dr. King spoke in support of the Sanitation Workers strike that had brought him to Memphis. Implicitly acknowledging the threats on his life, he expressed gratitude that God had allowed him “to go up the mountain. And I’ve looked over,” he said. “And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know that we, as a people, will get to the promised land . . . Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” 

Fifty-five years later, we have made great progress, movingly honored in this National Civil Rights Museum. But we still have not reached the promised land of freedom and equality.   

White supremacy and racially motivated hate crimes are alive and well.

Voting discrimination and voter suppression are rampant.

The conditions in our jails and prisons are inhumane.

People are dying because of unjustified police violence.

These are our challenges, and we meet them head on every day at the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.

We are using our federal civil rights laws to hold accountable the defendant who killed 10 Black people at the Tops grocery store in Buffalo, New York.

We secured convictions against all three men responsible for the racially-motivated killing of Ahmaud Arbery.

We are holding law enforcement officials accountable when they violate civil and constitutional rights, including Derek Chauvin and the three other officers who just stood by while he killed George Floyd.

We have charged four officers tied to the tragic death of Breonna Taylor.

And, here in Memphis, we are investigating the events that led to the death of Tyre Nichols. I know that Tyre’s parents are with us. Tyre Nichols should be alive today.

We are challenging voter suppression in lawsuits from Georgia to Texas to Arizona.

We are standing up for historically marginalized communities that have dealt with the legacy of environmental injustice for far too long, including in Lowndes County, Alabama, where generations of Black people have been denied access to basic sanitation and exposed to raw sewage.

We are investigating police departments from Louisville to Minneapolis, Phoenix to Louisiana.

We are taking on banks right here in Memphis that engage in modern-day redlining.

We do this work because we owe a tremendous debt to Dr. King and the other heroes and sheroes who gave their lives so that we would someday reach the promised land. We, too, can see it, and though there is much to be done, we will get there, together.

I pledge to you that the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice will keep fighting for you, all of you. Thank you.

Civil Rights
Updated April 4, 2023