The Burdens of Martyrdom

Viewpoint: Death distorted the true legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Why the turbulence of his life is what matters today


King's aides, from right, Andrew Young, Bernard Lee and Ralph Abernathy, lead the mourning of their slain leader.

You cannot hear the name Martin Luther King Jr. and not think of death. For as famous as he may have been in life, it is death that ultimately defined him. To be sure, King was courageous in the face of death. But the unrelenting threat of bombs exploding and snipers shooting took its toll. King suffered desperate stretches of depression that sometimes alarmed his closest aides and friends. He fought valiantly to maintain sanity and focus in the midst of the surrounding turmoil. One of his top aides wanted him to consult a psychiatrist because of his steep descent into...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!