A previously undiscovered Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr recording has been recovered, featuring the activist speaking in London just days before he received the Nobel Peace Prize.
The speech, given on Dec. 7, 1964, provides an insight into the activist’s view of the successes and failures of the civil rights movement in the US.
Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr
Democracy Now!, a US daily independent news program, first reported the discovery and broadcast the speech.
The tape had been lost until two weeks ago, when Pacifica Radio Archives discovered the recording made by its European correspondent.
Brian DeShazor, director of the Pacifica Radio Archives, told Democracy Now! that he had made the discovery while going through old boxes of un-catalogued tapes.
The speech began with King reflecting on his years of activism:
"There is a desperate, poignant question on the lips of people all over our country and all over the world. I get it almost everywhere I go and almost every press conference. It is a question of whether we are making any real progress in the struggle to make racial justice a reality in the United States of America," he said.
"And whenever I seek to answer that question, on the one hand, I seek to avoid an undue pessimism; on the other hand, I seek to avoid a superficial optimism,” he continued. “And I try to incorporate or develop what I consider a realistic position, by admitting on the one hand that we have made many significant strides over the last few years in the struggle for racial justice, but by admitting that before the problem is solved we still have numerous things to do and many challenges to meet.
"And it is this realistic position that I would like to use as a basis for our thinking together tonight as we think about the problem in the United States. We have come a long, long way, but we have a long, long way to go before the problem is solved".
King closed the speech by noting the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been enacted and implemented:
"And so, in America now, we have a civil rights bill. And I’m happy to report to you that, by and large, that bill is being implemented in communities all across the South," King says. "We have seen some surprising levels of compliance, even in some communities in the state of Mississippi. And whenever you can find anything right in Mississippi, things are getting better."
The full speech can be listened to in the video above.