Filmmaker Unearths Rare MLK Speech

Published April 14, 2009

A Michigan filmmaker excavated a long-lost audio tape of a speech delivered by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., on Nov. 24, 1964 at the University of Dayton Fieldhouse in Ohio.

The unlabeled reel-to-reel tape was discovered in a box of recordings by Herbert Woodward Martin, a poet and professor emeritus who is the subject of a film by David Schock.

King, who had been invited to talk on the issue of racial justice, arrived more than an hour late from Cincinnati because of an ice storm.

"Tonight I'd rather be Martin Luther King late than the late Martin Luther King," he said, generating laughter and applause from the crowd of 6,200 people. Professor Martin told The Dayton Daily News that he’s not really sure how he ended up with the tape.

"Either somebody gave it to me because I was teaching an African-American literature class, or I picked it out of somebody's trash," he said Martin. "I probably never listened to it and did not play it for my students."

During that speech more than four decades ago, King prophesized the death of segregation, saying that "the only thing uncertain about it is how costly the segregationists will make the funeral." But not everybody was glad the civil rights leader had picked Dayton to speak out about racism. Protestors greeted his entourage.

"The University of Dayton had a role in trying to raise this issue of justice," filmmaker Schock said. "Yet at the same time the city of Dayton was split."

Martin said he doesn’t quite know what to do with his important find.

"I'm thinking that perhaps it ought to be with the rest of (King's) effects in Atlanta, but I haven't spoken to anyone there about that," Martin said.

Written by BET.com Staff

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