AMY GOODMAN: It was 50 years ago today when Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, just 39 years old. We turn now to a conversation I recently had with Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Taylor Branch and with writer Trey Ellis. They both worked on the new HBO documentary called King in the Wilderness, which premiered at Sundance, where we spoke, but went on HBO this week. The film recalls the last three years of King’s life, beginning after President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. I began by talking to Taylor Branch, who wrote the America in the King Years trilogy.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk about those last three years, where Dr. King is moving north. And he would say, at that time, he was never so afraid as he was in Chicago. I mean, for all that he faced in the South, Chicago—
TAYLOR BRANCH: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: —the Northern United States.
TAYLOR BRANCH: Well, within a month of Selma, in 1965, he was saying, “We have to go north.” And the staff, including Diane, did not want him to go, did not want to go north. “We still have work to do in the South.” That’s what she said. But King became more determined. He was reluctant in the early years. He was trying to make the movement climb up. He gets the Nobel Peace Prize. Andy Young said, “We wanted to have chicken dinners and congratulate ourselves for 20 years.” He says, “No, we want to go to Selma.” As soon as Selma was done, he says, “We want to go north to show America that the race issue has never—is not, and never has been, purely Southern.” And the staff didn’t want to go.