On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. died after being shot while preparing for a march on behalf of striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee.

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Stanford historian Clayborne Carson talks about historical photos from the Bob Fitch Photography Archive at Stanford Libraries. Some of the photos document intimate moments of grief during the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr.

The impact of King’s death reverberated throughout the country. Half a century later, the Atlanta-born civil rights leader’s dedication to global peace and social justice continues to inspire generations.

At Stanford, hundreds of photos show intimate moments of grief that immediately followed King’s assassination.

The photos are a part of Stanford University Libraries’ Bob Fitch Photography Archive, established in 2013, and are available online for public viewing.

The collection includes about 200,000 images taken by Fitch, an activist and photographer who worked for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the 1960s.

Fitch is best known for his work that captured iconic images of major civil rights figures, including King, labor rights leader Cesar Chavez and social activist Dorothy Day.

Almost 3,000 images from the archive have been digitized so far, and the Stanford Libraries’ staff are working on adding additional photos to the online archive.

“All of these photos bring back so many memories,” said Stanford historian Clayborne Carson, who attended the historic 1963 March on Washington. “It was a very turbulent time. Bob Fitch’s photos are invaluable because they provide us a unique window into that period of grief. Viewers see Coretta King in her bedroom as she is grieving for her husband and trying to console her children, while also meeting with his movement colleagues and political leaders.”

Stanford’s ties to Martin Luther King Jr. date to 1964, when the late civil rights leader delivered a speech in Memorial Auditorium.

King gave a second lecture at Stanford, titled “The Other America,” on April 14, 1967, less than a year before he was assassinated. In that speech, he talked about the racial injustice that was at the root of black poverty.

Stanford celebrates a life and legacy of inspiration

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute offers tools of peace, justice to a new generation. On Jan. 18, the King Institute will hold its annual open house to celebrate the Nobel laureate's legacy of peace and justice.

Today, King’s legacy of nonviolence is more relevant than ever in a time of increasing political polarization and tension in the United States and around the world, said Carson, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Centennial Professor and founding director of Stanford’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute.

Carson has overseen the preservation and examination of King’s papers since 1985, when the late Coretta Scott King asked him to edit and publish a definitive multivolume edition of her late husband’s speeches, sermons, writings and correspondence.

Since then, the King Papers Project has produced seven volumes, and Carson has edited four additional books on King.

Through the work of Carson and his colleagues at the King Institute, King’s message of nonviolent activism and collective action is being preserved for future generations.