Emory University Released Historical Archive of SCLC Records

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Dr. Martin Luther King speaks at the March on Washington event in 1963.

ATLANTA — The year 2013 marks the 50th year of the March on Washington where the great humanitarian inspired a nation with his legendary speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top,” in August 1963.

Emory University Libraries in partnership with the Martin Luther King Research and Education Institute at Stanford, Morehouse College and Woodruff Library has made available unreleased SCLC records of the “Martin Luther King Speaks” radio program that was based in New York, May 2013 to commemorate the march on Washington.

In 2011-2012, David Garrow a historian, author and 1987 Pulitzer Prize Recipient for Biography on Dr. King and SCLC, has lent his expertise to the documentation on behalf of Emory and, Dr. Claybourne Carson. Dr. Carson is a historian and the Chief Editor of all projects related to Dr. King as delegated by Mrs. Coretta Scott King.

Since Mrs. King assigned the responsibility of institutionalizing the life works of Dr. King, other universities have been invited to partner in a collaborative effort with the life works and, respectfully dubbed as the “King legacy institutions” by the Steward of similar holdings.

“Martin Luther King Speaks” is a vintage radio program that was aired live on location beginning in 1959 through 1967. The 30 minute radio broadcast aired every Sunday as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. held court for his radio audience and a congregation, simultaneously.

WDAS in Philadelphia is the original radio station to broadcast the “Martin Luther King Speaks” program with support from the stations’ manager, Bob Klein. Only Dr. King’s strongest and most compelling sermons were used.

SCLC directors would blend a gospel song or a freedom chant to open the Martin Luther King Speaks program. In some cases, an excerpt of a sermon was used as the opening of the radio program then, Dr. King would give his primary message. In 1971 through 1979 other stations also aired the program in New York and Los Angeles, California.

An interesting point, during his doctoral studies 1950 – 1951, at Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester Pennsylvania, Dr. King selected a course titled “The Minister’s Use of Radio” as preparation to reach the masses. A letter from the Honorable Andrew Young to the General Manager Bob Klein thanking WDAS for their support is in Gallery I.

The decision for Dr. Carson and the King legacy institutions to research the subject of the radio broadcast “Martin Luther King Speaks” originated with the Campbell King Collection study that began in 2006 and was completed in 2012.

Rarely has there been a supporter to privately preserve a 34-year archive of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. outside of a King legacy institutions. This historic archive of Dr. King’s were given a title, Campbell King Collection, to distinguish the life works in-private holdings from other life works that were assigned to the legacy institutions of Dr. King.

As one of the legacy institutions, Emory’s release of the SCLC administrative records and sound recordings to the public for study, is also sanctioned by the King heirs and the King Estate. With admiration for the history and diligence to record, Dr. Carson and others have made a tremendous contribution since 1985 to the King legacy.

The material is steeped in American history and provides a new vantage point for the public to share in the experience of the ageless wisdom of Dr. King, which is precisely what Dr. King would have desired.

For information contact M.L. Campbell at (805) 229-9065 or comments on the sermons and speeches in the CKC contact Emeritus Professor Gerald M. Platt at: 413-586-8357. Questions contact Dr. Baldwin, a King Biographer at: 615-478-3890. Information for SCLC records at Emory contact Sarah Quigley at: 404-712-7051.