April 4, 1968, was a tragic day in America, as civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. TN. On this week's episode of Mad Men, we witness the historical event from the perspective of the mostly white upper-class employees of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. On the show, Pete Campbell is surprisingly genuinely distraught by the death and Joan awkwardly tries to comfort Don's black secretary, Dawn. Although Dawn is clearly rattled, she says she'd rather be in the office than at home when her co-workers encourage her to take the day off. As for Don, he worries mostly about his mistress who was in DC for the weekend. In the episode we also experience the unrest in NYC through Don's eyes as he nervously drives his kids through the streets with sirens blaring.
While many of the Mad Men characters express sometimes tone-deaf sadness and worry over race riots, in real-life 1968, civil rights leaders were attempting to maintain MLK's message of nonviolence in the aftermath. April 7 was declared a day of national mourning by President Johnson, and on April 8, King's wife attended the March on Memphis, which King had planned on attending. On April 9, hundreds of thousands came out for the funeral in Atlanta, GA, where Dr. King "eulogized" himself, as his "Drum Major" sermon, which he had given on Feb. 4, 1968, was played. In it, he directly addressed his own death and funeral. Take a look at photos from the days following MLK's assassination now.