Lost Martin Luther King Speeches Discovered

23 Jan
Trikosko, Marion S. - This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division

Trikosko, Marion S. – United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division

Three speeches by Martin Luther King have been re-discovered recently and made available to the public. King was a prolific speaker and traveled widely to speak to groups and convey his messages.

Prior to receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, King gave a speech in London on December 7, 1964 which looked beyond the desegregation battles in Montgomery, Birmingham, and other places in South. In this  speech, King foreshadows many of the challenges he would confront in the last four years of life, the problem of poverty, and discrimination in housing and education.

In this speech he builds on the ideas written in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail,

 There are those individuals who argue that only time can solve the problem of racial injustice in the United States, in South Africa or anywhere else; you’ve got to wait on time. And I know they’ve said to us so often in the States and to our allies in the white community, “Just be nice and be patient and continue to pray, and in 100 or 200 years the problem will work itself out.” We have heard and we have lived with the myth of time. The only answer that I can give to that myth is that time is neutral. It can be used either constructively or destructively. And I must honestly say to you that I’m convinced that the forces of ill will have often used time much more effectively than the forces of goodwill. And we may have to repent in this generation, not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around saying, “Wait on time.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

The speech was recently discovered in Pacifica Radio Archives and can be heard in its entirety here.

Another speech, this one given by King at University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) on April 27, 1965 was discovered in a storage room by archivist Derek Bolin and Tim Groeling, chair of the UCLA Department of Communication Studies. King delivered this speech a month after his march from Selma to Montgomery.

A recent NPR story reported a third speech by King has been discovered on reel-to-reel tape at the New York State Museum and is titled  “Martin Luther King, Jr., Emancipation Proclamation Speech 1962.” This speech has not been heard since King delivered it as part of the centenary of the Emancipation Proclamation. This entire speech can be heard here with a visual representation of King’s typescript draft showing his changes and edits.

These recent discoveries highlight the importance of archives and the role they play in uncovering and preserving important historical items.


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