According to Reuters, the tape was recorded by a man in Chattanooga, Tennessee, who interviewed Dr. King for a never-finished book about non-violence and the civil rights movement.
50 years later, the man’s son, Stephon Tull, discovered the reel in an old box marked “Dr. King” while going through belongings in his father’s attic after his father entered a nursing home. Tull declined to reveal his father’s name.
Speaking to Reuters on Thursday, collector Keya Morgan, and proprietor of a Manhattan gallery, had this to say about the remarkable discovery:
“The quality is so good, so crisp that it sounds like Dr. King is sitting in my parlor having tea with me,” he said. “It’s an intimate, frank, low-key discussion, but he still comes through so clearly and powerfully.”
The 10-minute reel-to-reel recording was made on December 21, 1960, nearly three years before King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech and more than seven years before he was gunned down in Memphis, Tennessee.
In the tape, King talks about the concept and importance of non-violent protest and asserts that the sit-in demonstrations aimed at ending racial segregation in public places would ultimately be viewed as a pivotal moment for American society.
“When the history books are written in future years, historians will have to record this movement as one of the greatest epics of our heritage,” Dr. King said. “I think the movement represents struggle on the highest level of dignity and discipline.”
A New York collector who bought the recording says he plans to offer it for sale next week. Based on prices fetched for similar recordings of historical figures of similar caliber, Morgan said he estimated the King tape would be valued at between $20,000 and $60,000.