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Attic surprise: Martin Luther King Jr. audio in a dusty old box

August 23, 2012|By Amy Hubbard

When a Tennessee man played a tape he found in a family attic, what he heard was the voice of Martin Luther King Jr.

Stephon Tull said he found the tape among dusty old boxes in the attic of his father's Chattanooga home, according to the Associated Press. It was a reel-to-reel audio tape labeled: "Dr. King interview, Dec. 21, 1960."

Tull said he was floored.

"No words can describe," he told the AP.  He'd found a "lost part of history."

Tull said his father had done the interview for a book project that he never completed. The interview includes rare audio of King talking of a recent trip to Africa and the thoughts among leaders there about the U.S. civil rights struggle.

The interview also focuses on the sit-in movement. 

In 2010, on the 50th anniversary of that movement, a Los Angeles Times article summed up the sit-ins historic value:

"In the time before Twitter, the rapid spread of the sit-ins was shocking. The first sit-in was an impulsive act, led by college students. They spread to Nashville, Atlanta, Miami, Durham, N.C., and Little Rock, Ark. -- more than 70 cities and towns in eight weeks. By summer, more than 50,000 people had taken part in one.

"At the time, this was not just the largest black protest against segregation ever; it was the largest outburst of civil disobedience in American history. The sit-ins rewrote the rules of protest. They were remarkably egalitarian: Everyone participated; everyone was in equal danger. And they went viral because they were easy to copy. All one needed for a sit-in was some friends and a commitment to a few simple principles of nonviolent protest."

In the newly unearthed audio, King is asked how he felt the sit-ins had affected "the progress of the Southern Negro and his struggle for equality."

King was prescient.

"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," he says. 

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