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Rare Recording Of Martin Luther King Jr’s Emancipation Proclamation Centennial Speech

Late last year, the New York State Museum in Albany received an ordinary package – reel-to-reel tapes donated by the late Enoch Squires, a radio technician. As staff worked their way through the items, one tape jumped out. It was labeled “Martin Luther King Sept. 12, ’62.” This bequest is the only known recording of King’s speech on the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, delivered at the Park-Sheraton Hotel in New York City.  

This 26-minute speech featured a more measured cadence than his “I Have A Dream” speech, but the similarities emphasize King’s discontent with the slow march to justice. He diagnosed U.S. race relations as a “pathological infection” that has hampered the social health of all citizens. King drew upon the language of the Declaration of Independence and the Emancipation Proclamation to reflect on the promises of equality America had not yet kept to African-Americans. 

“We do not have as much time as the cautious and the patient try to give us,” King said. “We are not only living in a time of cataclysmic change – we live in an era in which human rights is a central world issue. The shape of the world today does not afford us the luxury of an anemic democracy.” 

Less than a year later, King and John Lewis (also an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award winner), Bayard Rustin and three other leaders organized the historic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, propelling the civil rights movement into primetime and solidifying its place in history. 

Watch here the combined audio and visual here:  

 

 
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