Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Newly Discovered 1961 Audio Tapes Touch On Race Relations

Precursor to MLK 'I Have a Dream' speech (WCIV).JPG

Black History Month began on Thursday and back in the spotlight—Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Most people are familiar with Dr. King's legendary "I Have a Dream" speech from 1963, but newly discovered audio tapes bring words from the civil rights activist never heard before.

His teachings come from newly discovered audio tapes from a speech he made back in 1961. The audio was recorded at a synagogue in Worcester, Massachusetts, where King spoke a community forum.

Mark Epstein, a retired public-school guidance counselor in Charleston said he stumbled upon the audio on the internet. They were posted online by the granddaughter of the rabbi who hosted the 1961 forum. They were on two large reel-to-reel tapes, but they've now been digitized.

The tapes provide a rare chance to hear King unscripted, off-the-cuff and just as eloquent. When asked about voting rights for black Americans, King replied, "This isn't the basic thing that the negro is seeking as I've tried to say to audiences all over the country, although a man should be free to marry anybody he wants to and the person always has the freedom to say no. We must make it clear that the basic claim of the negro is to be the white man's brother and not his brother-in-law."

Epstein contacted his friend and Representative Wendell Gilliard to help bring the tapes to the public.

"That speech was just as timely back then as it is now because he talked about race relations, back in 1961, he was talking about economic empowerment," Gilliard said on Thursday.

The tapes will be used in classrooms across the Charleston County School District for the month of February. It's a new educational tool Epstein hopes will help some students further develop a moral compass.

"MLK can help lead our students into some difficult topic," said Epstein. "You almost feel like you're in a classroom with him and he's speaking directly to you."

Dr. King delves into an array of issues on the recording, including race relations, civil rights legislation, segregation, affordable housing and gentrification.

Audience Question: "Can you foresee a time when the hardcore bigoted Congressman or Senator from the segregated sovereign states will be voted out of office by negro votes?"

MLK: "Yes, I can. I think it's a real possibility. As I said, there are some five million potential negro voters in the South and when I say potential, I mean eligible in the terms of reaching the age for voting."

Audience Question: "Are you in favor of a provision in President Kennedy's bill on education which would prohibit federal funds from going to segregated schools?"

MLK: "I will go on to say that I think it is morally wrong for the federal government to give funds to states and school district's that willfully, openly, consciously, and boastfully content that they are defying the supreme court's decision and that they will never obey it."

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