The civil rights community was shaken to the core by the slaying of our 35th president, not only because they admired his willingness to address the fight for equality, but because it meant they were even more vulnerable than they had thought. “The important thing Dr. King said then was, ‘If they cannot protect the president with 400 Secret Service [guards], our days are numbered, so you all just better get ready.’” Added Young, ”I think in the assassination of John Kennedy, he saw his own assassination.”
Kennedy’s civil rights records is sometimes viewed with rose-colored glasses. He initially opposed the idea of the 1963 March on Washington, fearing it would turn violent. Still, said Young, “In spite of the fact that he didn’t agree with us, he didn’t understand a lot about the South, we felt that if he was with us, and he wanted to do what was right, and was willing and had the courage to do what was right. [His death] was a great loss for us and one that we thought that signified our own days were numbered.”
Listen to the entire clip below, as Young recounts how Kennedy called Coretta Scott King when her husband was arrested to show understanding and concern for their family, and elaborates on King’s concerns about Kennedy’s killing.