Riots erupted in America’s capital in the hours after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
Grieving and angry, rioters smashed windows, looted and burned buildings for several days, and at least 10 people lost their lives as a result of the violence.
With the Washington, DC police force overwhelmed by the rioting, the federal government deployed the National Guard to protect government buildings and maintain some semblance of order in the city. Soldiers carrying rifles in the streets of the capital became commonplace as officials struggled to calm angry residents.
It took decades for some predominantly black neighborhoods in the District of Columbia to recover from the destruction.
Today, 50 years later, the landscape of the city has changed with newer, more modern buildings replacing the damaged and burned facilities with little trace remaining from the days of rage following Martin Luther King’s death.
Stark images show the comparison between today and 50 years ago in places around Washington DC where destruction took place during the riots.
An April 7, 1968, photo showing Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, D-N.Y., stepping through the debris of a building razed by fire during a 22-block tour on foot. An easel is placed along 14th Street where destruction was 50 years ago
A photo from April 6, 1968, showing pedestrians being waved away from a barred area by a gas-masked National Guard member guarding the area. The easel is placed in northwest Washington days before the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Marin Luther King Jr.
Dr Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1668, in Memphis, Tennessee. The death of MLK, who led the civil rights movement, sent a shock wave through the country
An April 4, 1968, photo of police in riot gear is placed on a easel, in front of the present day scene that shows the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center at 14th and U Streets in northwest Washington on March 28, 2018. The National Guard was called in after riots broke out in the District of Columbia following the assassination of MLK
Pictured is the moments after MLK was shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. The assassination sparked riots throughout the country, specifically in Washington DC, as people reacted to the news
An April 6, 1968, photo of fireman around a fire engine is placed on a easel at the present day area near 14th and Irving Streets in northwest Washington. Fires and looting broke out across the nation’s capitol in anger against the assassination
James Earl Ray (right) was accused of shooting the civil rights leader. In 1997, he had a face-to-face meeting with MLK’s son in prison where he said he didn’t kill his father. Ray was sentenced to 99 years in prison for the murder of MLK
This June 24, 1968, photo of police patrolling is placed on a easel at the present day area on 14th and S Streets in northwest Washington. Police had to monitor the streets after severe riots broke out across the city when MLK was assassinated
This April 8, 1968, photo of a National Guard soldier standing guard near building ruins. The building has since been re-built and is seen behind the photograph
A mule-drawn cart carried MLK’s coffin through the streets of his hometown in Atlanta, Georgia, on April 9, 1968. People lined the streets for a chance to glimpse at the funeral procession as it walked by the crowds
An April 6, 1968, photo of people standing near destroyed buildings is placed on a easel, as people cross 14th Street near Kenyon Street. Dr Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated at a motel in Memphis, Tennessee
This April 5, 1968, photo, of people around debris covered sidewalks is placed on a easel in front of the same area in the block of 7th Street in northwest Washington, on March 26, 2018
There was an open casket during MLK’s funeral in Memphis, Tennessee, so family members and colleagues could say goodbye to him
An April 6, 1968, photo of a National Guard soldier standing to try and quell rioting taking place throughout Washington DC mere days after the assassination that sent a shock wave through the country
An April 6, 1968, photo of a National Guard truck and soldiers patrolling the trash covered street on 14th Street near Park Avenue. Present day shows a different scene of clean streets and no protesters
An April 6, 1968, photo of National Guard soldiers is placed on a easel at the present day location at the corner of 7th and K Streets in northwest Washington. The National Guard had to be called in after days of rioting through the city
An April 6, 1968, photo of a National Guard soldier in front of a pile of jewelry store rubble is placed on a easel in front of current construction activity at the corner of 8th and H Streets in northeast Washington
A large crowd of mourners followed the casket of MLK through the streets of Atlanta, Georgia. Two men are seen carrying a large sign with the fallen leader’s face on it
An April 6, 1968, photo of looted and burned buildings is placed on a easel at the present day area near 14th and Kenyon Streets in northwest Washington. The area has since developed into a shopping spot for residents
An April 6, 1968, photo of smoldering remains of a building is placed on a easel as people walk at the corner of the present day 7th and O Streets in northwest Washington. Rioting took place within the city and in surrounding neighborhoods
A March 31, 1968, photo of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking from the cathedral’s Canterbury Pulpit is placed on an easel in front of the present day pulpit as people walk by the Canterbury Pulpit at the National Cathedral in Washington, on March 26, 2018. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke from the cathedral’s Canterbury Pulpit to a capacity crowd at his last Sunday sermon before he was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis
An April 7, 1968, photo of police keeping rifles at the ready during a home search, is placed on a easel in the present day area at 11th and K Streets in northwest in Washington. Police had to be on their guard during the days following the assassination because of the growing unrest throughout the country