Politicians, civic leaders and royalty are often idolized, followed and even revered. Tragically, these leaders are sometimes stalked, harassed or even murdered in cold blood. When that happens, the scene of the assassination becomes a memorial to the victim, a place where mourners can honor and remember the dead.
Here are the sites of several famous assassinations.
Abraham Lincoln-Ford’s Theater, Washington, D.C.
Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. was a new and popular destination when Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd Lincoln went to the theater on April 14, 1865. In the middle of the performance, Lincoln was shot by actor John Wilkes Booth, an embittered supporter of the Confederacy. Lincoln was carried across the street to the Peterson House, where he died early the next morning.
Ford’s Theater later fell into decline and disrepair. It was partially opened as a museum in the 1930s and as fully renovated museum and theater in 1968.
Now, many visitors come each year to learn about and pay respects to the 16th president.
John F. Kennedy-Dealy Plaza, Dallas, Texas
John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline traveled to Dallas, Texas in November 1963. They were part of a public motorcade as they traveled to a luncheon event. As they turned onto Elm Street on Dealy Plaza, the President was fatally shot. Governor Connally was also shot but survived.
Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the murder, but was himself assassinated two days later by Jack Ruby.
Visitors and mourners can see the exact spot of the shooting, which is memorialized by an X on the street. Conspiracies still circulate widely about the truth behind the events that day.
Martin Luther King, Jr.-Lorraine Motel, Memphis, Tennessee
Martin Luther King, Jr. was a great civil rights leader fighting for racial equality. He traveled to various cities to lead nonviolent protests and marches. He was such a frequent traveler to Memphis that he was a regular at the Lorraine Motel, staying in the same room every time he was in town.
On April 4, 1968, King was in Memphis to organize a nonviolent protest. While standing outside his hotel room, he was shot and killed by James Earl Ray. Ray escaped to London, where he was arrested and send back to the United States for prosecution. He pled guilty and died in prison in 1998.
The room was never again used for guests, and the entire hotel was turned into a National Civil Rights Museum in 1991, where visitors can learn about the history of civil rights in the United States since the 17th century.
Malcolm X-Audubon Ballroom, New York, New York
Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little in Nebraska. While in prison, he became a member of the Nation of Islam, which advocated for black self-reliance, racial segregation and Islamic teachings. He changed his last name to “X” to be rid of the name given his family by white slave owners.
Malcolm X became well-known throughout the United States, but eventually became disillusioned with the organization. After leaving the organization, he clashed with it and received serious death threats for months. On February 21, 1965, he was preparing to speak at a meeting at the Audubon Ballroom, he was shot 21 times by three individuals associated with the Nation of Islam. His life and death and the aftermath were all controversial, but his death was nonetheless tragic and difficult for the communities he loved and helped through his works.
Robert Kennedy-Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles, California
Just a few short years after his brother’s death at the hands of an assassin, Robert Kennedy was running for president on a platform of social justice and equality. He was campaigning in Los Angeles on California’s primary election day on June 5, 1968. After receiving the positive election results, Kennedy gave a speech at the Ambassador Hotel and then left through the hotel kitchen when he was mortally wounded by Sirhan Sirhan.
Kennedy’s death rocked the country, following on the heels of Martin Luther King Jr.’s murder and so similar to his brother’s tragic and public murder.
His death, while witnessed by many, is still surrounded by conspiracy and confusion as to specific details of the crime.
These are just a few of the many politically and personally motivated killings that have rocked the world, and each one leaves a mark on their family, the community, and often even the world.