The 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr. visiting Western Michigan University will be marked with a celebratory event on Dec. 2.
Attendees will have a chance hear excerpts of the original speech King presented at WMU in 1963. Ed Gordon, a nationally known newsman and a WMU alumnus who attended King’s speech at WMU in 1963, will be featured as the keynote speaker.
“I believe that this event will provide perspective on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.,” Brandy Morgan, who will be a student speaker at the event, said. “Legacy is still being embodied on Western Michigan University’s campus through the efforts of faculty, staff and students.”
The speech at WMU was a showcase for King’s writing and oratorical skills, but is not widely known because the recording of it was lost for many years.
King’s speech covered the critical topics of the era: faith, segregation, discrimination, affirmative action and others. Despite the depth and length of the speech and the 2,000 audience members, the speech was largely lost to history because the audio recordings of it were not preserved.
King traveled to WMU four months after his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. The civil rights activist came to WMU as a part of a lecture series sponsored by the Lee Honors College. The speech King delivered was titled, “Social Justice,” at the request of the WSA, then known as the student council, and Lee Honors College.
The speech and post-speech remarks resurfaced in 1997 when a Kalamazoo resident found a copy of the recording, which had been broadcast on the public radio station, WMUK. The recording had been in storage on a reel-to-reel machine since the 1970s. The audio has since been restored.
In addition to hearing excerpts of “The Lost Tape,” as the speech is now known, WMU President John Dunn, Gordon, and a student panel will speak on behalf of King’s legacy at WMU.
The event will be held in the North Ballroom of the Bernhard Center. It is free to the public.