He had less than 24 hours to live.
King was in Memphis that rainy evening because he had been there previously a week or so before and met with black sanitation workers who, while on strike against the City for better working conditions and wages, had carried a placard with a simple message: "I AM A MAN."
King was drawn to the sanitation workers plight and their struggle. In the back of his mind he had been planning the next stage of the civil rights movement- the struggle for economic rights for all Americans. To that end King was planning another march on Washington, DC. This march would highlight the insidious effects of generational poverty. From the white coal workers in Appalachia to the black sanitation workers in Memphis, King wanted to do to poverty what his movement of non-violence was doing for civil rights.
In anticipation of a court battle over an injunction the City had obtained against the march, King spoke of many things on his last full night on earth in that Memphis church. He spoke of marching in Alabama and Mississippi against the dogs and water cannons and billy clubs of his opponents. He spoke of racial injustice, and the economic power of American Black people- which he said, when combined and marshaled together was more than most nations on earth. He spoke of- if being given a choice of anytime in history to live- that he would choose that time and that moment. He spoke of why he was in Memphis and he spoke, tellingly, and in hindsight chillingly, of his possible death.