The recent discovery of a previously unknown recording of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has scholars and civil rights leaders excited about its historic and cultural value.
According to the Associated Press, Stephen Tull was rifling through boxes in his father’s attic in Chattanooga, Tenn., when he found an audio reel labeled, “Dr. King interview, Dec. 21, 1960.”
In the interview, intended for a book project that didn’t pan out, Tull’s father questions the civil rights leader about his notion of nonviolence and how a recent trip to Africa informed his views.
“No words can describe. I couldn’t believe it,” Tull told the AP. “I found … a lost part of history.”
King, who had visited Africa a month before the interview, talked about how those on the continent viewed the U.S. civil rights struggle.
“I had the opportunity to talk with most of the major leaders of the new independent countries of Africa, and also leaders in countries that are moving toward independence,” he said. “And I think all of them agree that in the United States we must solve this problem of racial injustice if we expect to maintain our leadership in the world.”
Raymond Winbush, director of the Institute for Urban Research at Maryland’s Morgan State University, told the AP that a recording in which King discusses his visit to Africa is very rare.
“It’s clear that in this tape when he’s talking … about Africa, he saw this as a global human rights movement that would inspire other organizations, other nations, other groups around the world,” said Winbush, who is also a psychologist and historian. “That to me is what’s remarkable about the tape.”
King’s compatriots, U.S. Rep. John Lewis and the Rev. Joseph Lowery said they were moved to hear their colleague talk about their shared struggles and the philosophy of nonviolence that was the bedrock of their movement.
“To … hear his voice and listen to his words was so moving, so powerful,” said Lewis, who worked with King while a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
Lowery, who founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with King, agreed with Lewis that nonviolence is as relevant today as it was in King’s time.
“I can’t think of anything better to try,” he said. “What we’re doing now is not working. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Matching violence with violence. We’ve got more guns than we’ve ever had, and more ammunition to go with it. And yet, the situation worsens.”
Tull’s father, now in his early 80s, is under hospice care.
Tull is working with New York-based collector and expert on historical artifacts, Keya Morgan, to arrange a private sale of the recording.