Clay Risen in The Morning News:
Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis a little after 6 p.m., Central Standard Time, on April 4, 1968. As the news spread around the country, angry and grieving inner-city residents poured into the streets. In many places, marches and protests broke out; in some, the crowds turned violent. Scores of shops and restaurants along Washington’s 14th Street were looted that night, and several were set on fire, some only a few minutes’ drive from the White House.
Over the following few days, more than 100 cities would experience significant civil disturbance. In many cases it took National Guard troops to bring peace, and in three—Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington—it took thousands of active Army and Marine units. Strangely, however, New York City almost completely avoided violence, despite widespread expectation during the previous year that the city was due for a massive riot. This is the story of how the city avoided conflagration on that first, tense night. (The following is excerpted from Clay Risen's new book, A Nation on Fire: America in the Wake of the King Assassination—ed.)