A previously unknown audio recording of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's last staff meeting which documents the first reading of his "See You in Washington" speech has surfaced after 49 years and will be offered May 13 by Heritage Auctions
in Dallas. An interesting mix of inspirational oratory based on the Bible and teachings of Christ, sports analogies and impassioned declarations of conviction, it is the first recording of its kind to come to auction in recent memory.
"The talk is a combination of a sermon, pep talk and personal reflection, delivered in King's moving and inspirational style," said Don Ackerman, an Americana expert and consignment director at Heritage Auctions. "Be prepared to be inspired!"
The historically important tape recording of King documents the civil rights champion addressing a full staff meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) that took place at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on January 17, 1968, just four months before King was assassinated April 14, 1968. The tape runs 53 minutes and 11 seconds. It is expected to sell for at least $10,000 at auction.
Here, he assembles his entire staff to discuss the upcoming Poor People's Campaign and a planned march on Washington. In contrast to the August 28, 1963 march where King delivered his "I Have A Dream" speech, this event would focus on economic issues for the nation's poor, including affordable housing and unemployment. In his presentation, King stresses jobs and income as key issues.
King is recorded emphatically stating "Something is wrong and we are not going to sit down on stools of do-nothingism and accept it... The right to eat... the right to live... this is what we 're going to Washington about... My demand for Washington is... Repent, America! I'm serious about this..."
At one time, the tape was the property of C. Clarence Mayfield, a Savannah-based lawyer who provided legal representation for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People until the time of his death in 1996. Mayfield was also a close friend of Hosea Williams. It is not known whether Mayfield recorded the tape or was given it by Williams. In either event, the tape apparently is the sole surviving recording of this meeting.
"Dr. King's speech is clear as a bell and gives one the impression of being right there in the room. There are no other speakers, but members of the audience are occasionally heard giving words of encouragement, anticipation or assent," Ackerman said. "It is a particularly moving speech wherein he discusses the purpose of demonstrations, noting that crime rates go down in areas where demonstrations occur, contrary to popular perception."