Ever since Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated more than four decades ago, photographs taken at the scene of the murder have languished in a Life magazine’s vault, never before viewed by public eyes.
Now, the dozen or so black-and-white photographs, taken by Life photographer Henry Groskinsky, are available online [See the photos].
They include shots of King’s entourage gathered in the motel room of the civil rights leader and standing on the balcony. There are also photos of hotel staff cleaning up King’s blood. Groskinsky was on assignment in Alabama with writer Mike Silva when word came that King had been shot to death in Memphis, and they rushed to the scene at the Lorraine Motel.
Contacted by The Associated Press while vacationing in Boca Raton, Fla., on Friday, Groskinsky said he had only recently learned that the photographs would be released.
"The only thing I can figure is it might've had something to do with the (anniversary)," he told AP. "I think with Life opening up that new Web site, they started looking through the archives and ... said, 'What's this? Why wasn't this published at the time of the assassination?'"
Inexplicably, Life opted to go with an AP photo of King’s associates on the balcony, pointing in the direction of the assassin. That photo has become the most famous picture surrounding the assassination.
Groskinsky says he is glad his images are finally being seen.
"I thought it was great," Groskinsky said. "Finally, those pictures will see the light of day. People will see what the situation looked like."
Groskinsky said that he has pulled out the photos over the years to reflect on that tragic episode in history.
"I don't dwell on them," he said. "Every once in a while, I come across that envelope and reminisce about it. …"It's very nice to be a part of history. Unfortunately, it was a sad part of history. But there was nobody else there. We documented what we could."
Saturday marked 41 years since James Earl Ray cut King down with a high-powered rifle. King had been in Memphis to stand up for striking Black sanitation workers. It was here that he delivered his prophetic “I’ve been to the Mountaintop” speech.