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Ray watching: the highly protected, British prison experience of Martin Luther King’s killer

Ling, Peter


Peter Ling


The arrest of James Earl Ray at London Airport on 8 June 1968 marked the final stage of an international manhunt that had begun with the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. on 4 April. Arrested for travelling on a false passport and with an unlicensed firearm, Ray faced extradition to the US to face charges of murder. While in prison in Britain, the US Government feared that he might escape, commit suicide or be himself assassinated. Each of these outcomes risked reigniting the African-American anger that had wracked major US cities in April. Accordingly the UK Government was requested to take special security measures and complied. Was this a supine response from a Labour government anxious to placate a disgruntled superpower ally or did it also reflect contemporaneous UK anxieties about the tense state of race relations at home? Drawing on Home Office records, this article examines these questions.


Ling, P. (2017). Ray watching: the highly protected, British prison experience of Martin Luther King’s killer. Comparative American Studies, 15(1-2), 72-90.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 27, 2017
Online Publication Date Dec 27, 2017
Publication Date Dec 27, 2017
Deposit Date Feb 6, 2018
Publicly Available Date Jun 28, 2019
Journal Comparative American Studies
Print ISSN 1477-5700
Electronic ISSN 1741-2676
Publisher Taylor and Francis
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Volume 15
Issue 1-2
Pages 72-90
Keywords James Earl Ray, Martin Luther King, assassination, extradition, international relations
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Comparative American Studies on 27/12/2017, available online:


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