Seven days before his assassination, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spent the day in New Jersey, visiting churches, schools, and public housing in Newark, Paterson, Orange and Jersey City. He also met with Newark business leaders at the offices of the New Jersey Bell Telephone Company, and met with civil rights leader LeRoi Jones (now known as Amiri Baraka). King held a news conference at Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, and spoke at South Side High School (now Malcolm X. Shabbaz High School).
He made news that day – March 28, 1968 – by saying that he might abandon his policy of not endorsing presidential candidates and take sides in the Democratic primary. On March 12, U.S. Sen. Eugene McCarthy held President Lyndon Johnson to a 49%-42% win in the New Hampshire primary; U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy entered the race on March 16. In Newark, King said he was “disenchanted” with Johnson, and that he would consider backing either McCarthy or Kennedy. Johnson dropped out of the race three days later.
King also called for the defeat of Newark Mayor Hugh Addonizio: “The hour has come for Newark, New Jersey to have a black mayor,” King told more than 1,000 people at the Abyssinian Baptist Church. In 1970, Kenneth Gibson became the city’s first Black mayor when he defeated Addonizio in a runoff election.