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1968: Boston and James Brown Use TV to Curb MLK-Related Unrest
April 5, 2020  | By TV WW
 
On this day in 1968, the nation was reeling from the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., which had taken place the day before. King's death triggered riots in several cities around the nation, including Baltimore, Chicago, Kansas City, Louisville and Washington, D.C.

The city of Boston had weathered a night of civil disturbance in isolated areas of the city on the evening of King's death, and its mayor, Kevin White, sought a way to curb further, more widespread problems. A young, black city councilman, Tom Atkins, proposed an idea: televise the previously-scheduled James Brown concert taking place that evening at the Boston Garden, with the goal of keeping many Bostonians at home, in front of their televisions.

Atkins and White convinced Boston's public television station, WGBH, to scrub its planned schedule in favor of the James Brown concert. And so, that night, in front of a live audience and television viewers, James Brown helped introduce "a swinging cat" Kevin White, who delivered a brief but heartfelt plea to Boston residents:

"All of us are here tonight to listen to a great talent, James Brown. But we're also here to pay tribute to one of the greatest Americans, Dr. Martin Luther King. Twenty-four hours ago, Dr. King died — for all of us, black and white — that we may live together in harmony without violence and in peace. Now, I'm here tonight, like all of you, to listen to James. But I'm also here to ask for your help. I'm here to ask you to stay with me, as your mayor, and to make Dr. King's dreams a reality in Boston. This is our city, and its future is in our hands, tonight, and tomorrow and the days that follow. Martin Luther King loved this city, and it's up to our generation to prove his faith in us. So all I ask you tonight is this: Let us look at each other, here in the Gardens, and back at home, and pledge that no matter what any other community might do, we in Boston will honor Dr. King in peace." 


 
 
 
 
 
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