In 1968 Johnny Carson stunned the entertainment world by inviting a black man to fill in for him. For a full week in February Harry Belafonte hosted the Tonight Show, showcasing numerous other black celebrities—not least, his friend and fellow civil-rights advocate Martin Luther King, Jr.
After relaxing the audience with a joke, Dr. King discussed serious public and personal matters. When Belafonte asked if he feared for his life, he responded “If something happens to me, maybe something good will come of it.” He was assassinated two months later .
This according to “Belafonte’s balancing act” by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (The New Yorker 26 August & 2 September 1996, pp. 133–43). Below, Belafonte recalls the evening in an interview with Tavis Smiley.