Look Back at the Past. Look Forward to the Future.

While the nation’s first African-American President is overseas strutting his stuff with the Brits, Germans, French and other major players on the world stage, 41 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr., arguably the most important African-American ever was assassinated in Memphis.

Life.com is featuring a photo essay of never-before-published photographs taken at the Lorraine Motel after King’s death.  Photographer Henry Groskinsky was on assignment in Memphis with writer Mike Silva for LIFE magazine.  They went to the motel following the announcement that King had been shot.  Much to their surprise, they found they had access to King’s room.

In a story on Salon.com, Groskinsky explained how he happened to be there at that critical time,  “I was very discreet. I shot just enough to document what was going on. I didn’t want to make a nuisance of myself,” the 75-year-old Groskinsky said in the caption to a photo showing a group of King’s associates, including Andrew Young and the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, assembled inside the room.

“It’s very somber, and there I am with a flash camera. So I took a couple of pictures and just kind of backed off,” Groskinsky said.

Salon also features a wonderful photo essay of their own by Lauren Hermele featuring some of the numerous unsung heroes of the Civil Rights era today and what they think of the election of Barack Obama to the presidency. 

Dion Diamond, who was a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was quoted, “When we were doing voter registration we  had hoped to elect some county commissioners or city council persons, perhaps in years to come some representative to Congress.  But we never gave a thought to electing an African American president.”

Despite looking back in sorrow at the grim images taken at the Lorraine Motel after King’s death, it is poignant to consider the words of some of the thousands of largely unknown veterans of the struggle he helped lead.

I’ve never understood people who say history bores them.  Depending on who’s telling the story, nothing is more fascinating to me than what those who made history have to say about the part they played in the creating.