Never-before-heard audio from Martin Luther King, Jr. to play at Schomburg Center event
theGRIO REPORT - The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Birmingham Freedom Struggle and Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail speech at Canaan Baptist Church on May 2...
This Thursday, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Birmingham Freedom Struggle at Canaan Baptist Church.
They are celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail and Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, the architect of “Project C” also known as the Birmingham Movement.
The event will feature Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr., Rev. Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson and professor Jonathan Rieder, Barnard College, author of Gospel of Freedom: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail and the Struggle that Changed a Nation as panel guests.
A rare audio recording
During the event, never-before-heard audio of Dr. King will be played. The audio is a speech Dr. King gave at a mass meeting in a Birmingham church to an all-black audience shortly after his release from Birmingham City Jail on April 20, 1963.
The civil rights leader spoke at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. That same church would later be the site of a bombing on September 15, 1963 by Ku Klux Klan members, resulting in the death of four young African-American girls.
Professor Rieder told theGrio that in the recording you can “hear his frustration not only with whites but with black dissidence.”
“In the mass meetings he was talking to ‘my people’ about leading a race up out of bondage.”
‘The ultimate cross-over artist’
Rieder said that King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail and this rare recording are similar, but that there are differences in his delivery depending on the race of his audience.
“He would alter the style of his performance but not the message,” Rieder said. “He was the ultimate cross-over artist.”
The audio of King at a mass meeting in Birmingham is “more direct.” Rieder suggests that during meetings like this King could be angry and “cuts loose.”
However King is “cautious when speaking to whites,” Rieder said. “He still needs to win them over.”
“He was trying to get blacks to overcome the fear,” Rieder said. “That’s the part of him that was raising black consciousness. This puts him closer to Malcolm X.”
The meeting was an effort to join African-Americans in Birmingham together.
“There is this loving black solidarity in these meetings.”
At the May 2 event, this never-before-heard audio of Dr. King will be played, as well as discussions by panelists and performances by the Canaan choir.
Follow Carrie Healey on Twitter @CarrieHeals.