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AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Roads To Memphis

Airs Monday, May 2, 2011 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Martin Luther King Jr. listens at a meeting of the SCLC, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a civil rights organization formed by King after the success of the Montgomery bus boycott.

Mug shot of James Earl Ray, assassin of Martin Luther King Jr. Ray was finally arrested and taken into custody on June 8, 1968 at the Heathrow Airport in London.
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Above: Mug shot of James Earl Ray, assassin of Martin Luther King Jr. Ray was finally arrested and taken into custody on June 8, 1968 at the Heathrow Airport in London.

The Manhunt For James Earl Ray

On April 4, 1968, James Early Ray shot Martin Luther King while he was standing on a balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. The ensuing manhunt would last more than two months and span five countries. It was said to be the FBI's most expensive and ambitious investigation in history. View the photo gallery

“We were never concerned with who killed Martin Luther King, but what killed Martin Luther King,” says former King aide Andrew Young.

From Emmy Award-winning director Stephen Ives, "Roads To Memphis" tells the wildly disparate yet fatefully entwined stories of an assassin, James Earl Ray, and his target, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., against the backdrop of the seething and turbulent forces in American society that led these two men to their violent and tragic collision in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968.

Based on a forthcoming book by Hampton Sides ("Hellhound on His Trail"), the program relies on eyewitness testimony from King’s inner circle and the officials involved in Ray’s capture and prosecution following an intense two-month international manhunt.

The first film to explore the mind of King's elusive assassin "Roads To Memphis" is both an incisive portrait of an America on edge in that crisis-laden year and a cautionary tale of how the course of history can be forever altered by the actions of one individual.

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Video Excerpt: American Experience: Roads To Memphis

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Above: A riveting crosscut narrative of a killer and his prey, "Roads To Memphis" is the fateful story of an assassin and his target set against the seething, turbulent forces in American society that drove two men to their violent and tragic collision on April 4, 1968. In this clip, America responds to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Interview With Author Hampton Sides

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Watch the full episode. See more American Experience.

Above: Author Hampton Sides ("Ghost Soldiers," "Blood and Thunder") talked with AMERICAN EXPERIENCE in March, 2010 about his newest book, "Hellhound on His Trail," an intense narrative recounting the 1968 murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the international manhunt for his killer, James Earl Ray. "Roads To Memphis" was produced in parallel with "Hellhound on His Trail."

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