Man finds historic Martin Luther King Jr. audiotape in attic

Jason Sickles
August 22, 2012

A Tennessee man digging through forgotten boxes in his father's attic discovered an unheard audio interview recorded with civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. nearly 52 years ago.

"No words can describe. I couldn't believe it," Stephon Tull told The Associated Press. "I found ... a lost part of history."

On the reel-to-reel tape recorded on Dec. 21, 1960, King talks about a recent trip to Africa, defines nonviolence and discusses the growing civil rights movement.

"I am convinced that when the history books are written in future years, historians will have to record this movement as one of the greatest epochs of our heritage," King says on the tape.

Tull's father, who is now in his 80s and under hospice care, interviewed King in Chattanooga for a memoir he planned to write about racism. The book went unfinished, but the King interview and other research materials were stowed away in his attic, where his son found them a few months ago.

The recording was made four years before the Civil Rights Act became law, three years before King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech, and eight years before his assassination.

One historian told the AP that there are very few recordings of King detailing his activity in Africa.

"That to me is what's remarkable about the tape," said Raymond Winbush, director of the Institute for Urban Research at Maryland's Morgan State University. "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."

Keya Morgan, a New York-based collector and artifacts expert, is working with Tull to arrange a private sale of the rare tape.

"I was like, wow! To hear him that crisp and clear," Morgan told the AP. "But beyond that, for him to speak of nonviolence, which is what he represented."

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)