I’m an admirer of Dr. King . I remember hearing him on the evening news and the palpable change in consciousness he brought about. Before King, you see, Civil Rights for African Americans were hard to get, and small gains were so often reversed. Americans were either oblivious or opposed to justice for Blacks. After King began his work, though, people were suddenly aware of African Americans’ struggles, and many who were oblivious became sympathetic.
I remember his murder in 1968, too. School was cancelled, and our neighborhood was absolutely silent. Most people were watching TV, but even birds and dogs were quiet that day. I was a little kid, but I felt the enormity of it. More than war, or Nixon, music, or any other factors that shaped that era, those last couple years of Dr. King’s life affected me and the person I have become.
It’s those words. And that voice.
King was a magical speaker . Certain arias in opera bring tears to my eyes — some sort of reaction to the emotion in music, I guess. (No wisecracks!) It doesn’t happen with any other music. Whenever I listen to Dr. King’s speeches, the same darn thing happens — I get all misty and sniffly. I can’t watch documentaries on Dr. King or the Movement without becoming a wreck I credit the power of conviction in King’s words, as well as the royalty of his voice. He’s truly larger than life.
So I was picking through some old LPs in a 2nd hand store last year, and came upon this record. It is the speech Dr. King gave in Detroit in June, 1963 , as he moved toward the historic rally at the Lincoln Memorial that summer. The speech he delivered was the first time he used the “I Have a Dream” piece — perhaps the greatest speech of the century.
The record, by the way, was captured and distributed by Gordy Records, a division of Barry Gordy’s Motown label. Gordy Records was the label Motown developed for spoken word albums , a standard genre of the time. “The Great March To Freedom: Rev. Martin Luther King Speaks” was the inaugural disc from Gordy.
So there you have it — my personal MLK Day. It means a lot to me because he means a lot to me. Also, Guided By History will blog about Black History Month most of February.
Let this be the first post that celebrates Black History!