A Promise Unfulfilled: 1962 MLK Speech Recording Is Discovered | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

A Promise Unfulfilled: 1962 MLK Speech Recording Is Discovered

Play associated audio

Last fall, curators and interns at the New York State Museum were digging through their audio archives in an effort to digitize their collection. It was tedious work; the museum houses over 15 million objects. But on this particular day in November, they unearthed a treasure.

As they sifted through box after box, museum director Mark Schaming remembers: "They pull up a little reel-to-reel tape and a piece of masking tape on it is labeled 'Martin Luther King, Jr., Emancipation Proclamation Speech 1962.' "

It's audio no one knew existed.

That year — 1962 — fell in the midst of the Civil War centennial. At one commemorative event, New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller proposed a focus on the Emancipation Proclamation and invited King to speak. No one had heard his speech since. When Schaming listened to the audio, he found it still relevant. "It's 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation is released, and this promise is still unfulfilled, very much as it is still today in many ways," the museum director says.

At the end of the speech, King quotes a slave preacher who he says "didn't quite have his grammar right but uttered words of great symbolic profundity."

"Lord, we ain't what we oughta be. We ain't what we want to be. We ain't what we gonna be. But, thank God, we ain't what we was."

The passage, Schaming says, is so powerful it must be heard to be appreciated. You can hear the full speech and explore King's typewritten speech at the New York State Museum's online exhibit.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Can Finishing A Big Bowl Of Ramen Make Dreams Come True?

At his ramen shop in Cambridge, Mass., chef Tsuyishi Nishioka wants customers to follow their dreams. His philosophy? If you can finish a bowl of his ramen, you can accomplish anything in life.
NPR

Keychain Breathalyzers May Make Quantified Drinking Easy

Some of us now monitor our steps, sleep and calorie intake with wristbands and apps. So why not track blood alcohol levels? We explore the next frontier in the self-measurement movement.
NPR

As Political Disenchantment Soars, Lines At The Polls Grow Shorter

There has been record low turnout among voters in the 2014 primaries so far. Is it political dysfunction that's made voters lose interest? And what might this mean for November's general elections?
NPR

Bill Allowing Americans To Unlock Cellphones Passes House, Heads To Obama

The bill also directs the Librarian of Congress to review whether the exemption should also apply to tablets and other devices.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.