A Day of Remembrance: MLK’s Time Spent in Bimini

OOn April 4th, 1968 – over half a century ago today – a shot rang out in Tennessee that changed the world forever. Civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shockingly murdered while standing on the balcony of a motel in Memphis, marking one of the most significant moments in U.S. history. This great loss was and is still deeply felt by people from all over the world, including those from the peaceful island of Bimini. It was only a few days before his assassination that Dr. King had returned from his trip to Bimini where he wrote his famous sanitations workers’ strike speech. This was the second oration Dr. King wrote in Bimini – his special sanctuary where he found peace, serenity, and a connection to inspire millions.

He first came to the island in 1964 in search of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., a civil rights reformer and famous politician who had moved to Bimini to escape political controversy. ­­­­King considered Powell a mentor who could help him and his work to get international attention. While in Bimini, King also took the time to prepare for his Nobel Peace Prize reception speech. With its miles of untouched beaches, where one can just sit and listen to the waves while staring off into the crystal blue ocean – it’s easy to get lost in the calmness of Bimini. There’s no doubt that Dr. King felt inspired by Bimini’s natural beauty and laidback lifestyle.

It’s here on the island that he met Ansil Saunders, a bone fisherman and boat builder, and one of Bimini’s most well-known residents. He served as Dr. King’s personal guide and would take him out into the mangroves for private reflection time. Like King, Ansil Saunders is a deeply religious man, and the two quickly bonded over their faith. Saunders recalls, “King used to say that Bimini was so peaceful and close to nature that only God could have created such a spot. He loved this place. I could tell when he first stepped on the soil that there was something special about him and Bimini.”

Dr. King returned to Bimini in 1968 to write the last oration he would ever deliver. He wrote this speech in Saunders’ wooden boat, deep in the Bimini mangroves, surrounded by murky waters, winding swamps, and marine life. There in isolation, Dr. King meditated on his life, his strife, and his faith. Saunders said that for some reason King knew he was going to die and wrote part of his eulogy that became known as “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top.” Saunders adds, “He brought so much to this last speech that they had to help him back to his seat. And in a week, he was dead.”

Today, on the 50-year anniversary of his assassination, you can find Dr. King’s legacy living on in Bimini. To honor him, the government built a Bahamas historical landmark in his memory. There is also a bust of Dr. King at the Bimini Craft Centre in Alice Town, as well as a statue of him in the mangroves, built in his honor by Ansil Saunders. To this day, Ansil offers intimate boat tours of the very spot in the mangroves that renewed Dr. King’s courage to carry on his mission. There is no doubt you can feel his presence in Bimini, forever residing over the still blue waters that gave him so much peace.