On what would have been Martin Luther King Jr.'s 86th birthday, the country has been given the gift of his long-lost words. An audio recording of a speech given by the civil rights icon in the 1960s, long thought to have been destroyed, was found in a UCLA storage room and made available to the masses online.
The 55-minute recording of the speech delivered by the late Dr. King on April 27, 1965 at the University of California, Los Angeles was unearthed by archivist Derek Bolin and Tim Groeling, chair of the UCLA Department of Communication Studies.
“It’s a speech of importance that deserves to be released on a day of importance,” Bolin, also a 2013 UCLA graduate, said Friday in a press release.
The speech happened a month and two days after King’s historic civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., which was the subject of the Oscar-nominated film Selma, directed by Ava DuVernay. For months after the speech, the Watts riots broke out in Los Angeles.
“When people are walking the streets hungry and they have no jobs, and they see life as a long and desolate corridor with no exit sign, they become bitter,” he warned, before offering hope for change. “Yes, we shall overcome, and I have faith in the future because I know somehow that, although the arc of the universe is long, it bends toward justice.”
It's the second such discovery of lost Dr. King speeches made in as many months. In November 2014, another recording of a speech given by the American leader in 1962 — on the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation — was discovered in New York City.
Officials with the New York State Education Department, which operates the museum, said its copy is the only known recording of King's speech.
"This is a remarkable treasure," Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the state Board of Regents, said in a statement. "More than 50 years later, Dr. King's voice has come back to life."
In the speech, King said two American documents, the Emancipation Proclamation and the Declaration of Independence, have been invaluable contributions to civilization.
"All tyrants, past, present and future, are powerless to bury the truths in these declarations, no matter how extensive their legions, how vast their power and how malignant their evil," he said.
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