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50 years later: MLK assassination sparked riots in Nashville

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) - Today marks 50 years since the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The civil rights icon was murdered in Memphis, Tennessee, but his death sparked a violent reaction in many communities- including Nashville.

Many cities saw nights of violent outburst after the death of King, and Nashville was no exception.

Pictures from the Nashville Public Library bring to life the decades-old story.

According to newspaper reports, a crowd of more than 200 gathered at the corner of Jefferson Street and 18th Avenue. Some threw rocks at cars with white passengers, while some fired guns. Several businesses were burned, looted or damaged. Ten people went the hospital with minor injuries.

Then Nashville mayor Beverly Briley put a 10 p.m. curfew in place and requested National Guard assistance – and 4,000 troops poured into Music City.

WZTV talked to one former Tennessee A&I (now TSU) student who remembers the curfews that lasted nearly a week.

“It was an eerie feeling to see military in your back yard, literally in your backyard,” Harry Allen said. “My wife lived by Meharry Hospital and she can remember hearing the National Guard troops running through her backyard in the middle of the night, chasing people I guess."

While Allen is sharing his story with WZTV, he says not everyone is that open.

“I think a lot of people don't talk about it because it was too painful, brought up too many negative memories of a progressive city,” Allen said. “Some things you just don't want to talk about openly.”

It's a sentiment shared by TSU Dr. Learotha Williams.

"We demand answers, we demand justice, we demand that you not treat [us] like we are prisoners in our own community, Wlliams said. “Because the community was traumatized, right, and when you lose a member of your family, we respond in a lot of different ways."

Here are some parting words from Allen:

"We have not learned that if we just learned to get along, how much better life would be," he said. "There's still too much prejudice on both sides."

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