On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. The news was devastating for the Supremes. They canceled their scheduled engagements at the Copa in New York and flew to Atlanta for the funeral. King's widow asked the Supremes to perform at a rally in the days that followed King's burial. Along with several other Motown artists, the Supremes performed at the Atlanta Civic Center as part of the Poor People's March from Atlanta to Washington, D.C.
Dr. King's death was a turning point in race relations in the United States. The nation had watched as King and his followers staged a series of nonviolent protests to oppose racial segregation in the United States. After his assassination, many people no longer felt they could simply watch from the sidelines. While protesting King's death in grief and despair, many people rioted in major cities, including Detroit.
The Supremes began feeling some pressure to voice political opinions in interviews. Times had changed and many in the black community felt it was not enough for the group to be positive role models for young black women. The sophisticated image the Supremes had worked so hard to maintain was sometimes ridiculed by people who suggested the group wasn't “black enough.” Though the Supremes never publicly stated political opinions, they did show their support for civil rights causes again and again. Indeed, since their earliest days in the Motortown Revue, the Supremes had worked hard to level the playing field for black performers.