The immediate and extended family of Martin Luther King, Jr. gathered at his crypt to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his assassination. In addition to laying a wreath and saying a prayer over his crypt, the family rang a bell 39 times, which represented the years he spent on earth. ALYSSA POINTER/ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

For the children of Martin Luther King Jr., mourning is often a public practice

In the spectacle of Memphis, Atlanta and the nation mourning the death of Martin Luther King Jr. on the 50th anniversary of his assassination, it is sometimes easy to forget that he left behind children – who are now forced, like they were in 1968, to publicly share their grief and pain.

Bernice King, in an exclusive discussion with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said  even after 50 years, “There’s a lot of emotion there that has not been dealt with, frankly.”

»RELATED: Read all of the AJC’s coverage of the life and death of Martin Luther King Jr.

Dexter King, Martin Luther King III and Bernice King are joined by their families as they lay a wreath at their parents' crypt Wednesday evening. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM
Photo: ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJ

»RELATED: 39 tolls of the bell for King

“But because of the way we were raised by our mother, we have a tendency not to think a lot about ourselves, but to focus our attention on the issues that are impacting society as a whole,” Bernice King said. “We don’t get a lot of time, especially on this day, to really sit with those emotions. We just kind of keep it going.” 

Bernice on Wednesday, was joined by her brothers Martin Luther King III and Dexter King for a solemn ceremony at the King Center. They rang a bell 39 times and places a wreath on the crypt. 

It was the end of a non-stop day, with back to back media appearances, speeches and appearances. King III arrived just in time for the evening ceremony, after spending most of the day in Memphis. 

»RELATED: The Last Days of Martin Luther King Jr.

 In this Sunday, April 8, 1968 file photo, Coretta Scott King, third right, is accompanied by her children, Yolanda, Bernice, Martin III, and Dexter at Sisters Chapel on the campus of Spelman College in Atlanta. Martin Luther King Jr.'s family joined thousands of mourners who filed by the casket of the civil rights leader. (AP Photo/Jack Thornell)
Photo: Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

»EXCLUSIVE: Never-before-seen photos of Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral

“While I was there, I was thinking, this is the city where dad was assassinated,” King III, told the AJC, before pausing to compose himself. “But I didn’t focus on the city. I tried to focus on the great hope that exists in our society.”

Darlin Lozano watched the siblings from afar. She with her a bouquet of yellow daisies, clutched tightly to her chest. 

She visits the crypt of Martin Luther King Jr. often and on her way home from work Wednesday, she wanted to stop by and place flowers on it. 

Darlin Lozano, who lives in Atlanta, came to the King Center on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death to place flowers on his crypt.

“I’ve read all of Dr. King’s work and it has moved me in so many ways,” Lozano said. “Between him, Malcolm X and Gandhi, the messages were very relevant. And seeing his family today was really beautiful and moving.”

The March 21 documentary 'The Last Days of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.' on Channel 2 kicked off a countdown of remembrance across the combined platforms of Channel 2 and its partners, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB Radio. 

The three Atlanta news sources will release comprehensive multi-platform content until April 9, the anniversary of King’s funeral. 

On April 4, the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination, the three properties devoted extensive live coverage to the memorials in Atlanta, Memphis and around the country. 

The project presented a living timeline in real time as it occurred on that day in 1968, right down to the time the fatal shot was fired that ended his life an hour later. 

The project will culminate on April 9 with coverage of the special processional in Atlanta marking the path of Dr. King’s funeral, which was watched by the world.

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