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Saving Stories: MLK outlines revolutionary vision of Civil Rights movement in extraordinary interview

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965.

In this special MLK Holiday edition of WUKY's award winning history series Saving Stories, Doug Boyd, director of the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History in the UK Libraries highlights an extraordinary interview with Dr. King from March of 1964. Hear the non-violent advocate and activist at the height of his influence in a one-on-one conversation with Kentucky author Robert Penn Warren discussing the revolutionary nature of the Civil Rights movement and where he thought it should go next.

Who Speaks For The Negro? The Robert Penn Warren Civil Rights Oral History Project is a collection of interviews concerning the Civil Rights
movement and the socioeconomic, cultural, and political struggles of African Americans. Conducted in 1964 by Robert Penn Warren, a Kentucky native and the first poet laureate of the United States, these interviews constituted part of Warren's research for his book "Who Speaks for the Negro?" Warren interviewed important civil rights leaders
and activists such as Martin Luther King Jr., Milton Galamison, Adam Clayton Powell, Kenneth Bancroft Clark, Vernon Jordan, Malcolm X, Carroll Baker, Stokley Carmichael, William Hastie, Bayard Rustin, Ruth Turner, Claire Collins Harvey, Aaron Henry, Andrew Young, Gilbert Moses, and Ralph Ellison. Topics include racism throughout the United States,
school integration, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), education, employment, nonviolent protest, peace activism, black nationalism and pride, civil rights legislation, religion and spirituality, the role of whites in the civil rights movement, Abraham Lincoln, African culture, the Free Southern Theatre, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) was a Baptist minister in Atlanta, Georgia and Montgomery, Alabama and a civil rights activist. He was a major leader of the civil rights movement from the mid-1950s until his assassination in 1968. King graduated from a segregated Atlanta high
school in 1948 and received his Bachelor of Art's degree from Morehouse College. King received his Bachelor's of Divinity from Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania and later completed his doctorate in 1955 from Boston University. As an executive committee member of the NAACP, he served as leader of the first great nonviolent demonstration, the bus boycott of 1955. Also in 1955, King was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). King is known for promoting nonviolent tactics to combat racism and segregation including the 1963 March on Washington. In 1964, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. In 1968 King was assassinated on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis Tennessee where he was waiting to lead a protest march for the city's striking garbage workers.

In this interview, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. discusses the similarities and differences of his and his father's work as civil rights activists. Dr. King describes and defends his belief in nonviolent methods and provides his reaction to criticisms of his philosophy of nonviolence. He also describes what he considers the next phases of the civil rights movement. Dr. King discusses Dr. Clark's belief that Dr. King is "safe" for white people in the civil rights movement to follow. He also addresses the resulting
resistance of some African American's in the movement towards his leadership and discusses the current state and future of the civil rights movement without a centralized leadership. Dr. King also considers Gunnar Myrdal's proposal for Reconstruction of the South after the Civil War and discusses the connection between the Reconstruction era and contemporary racism. He continues by describing the issues associated with relating to Africa and African American identity and
cultural assimilation. Dr. King provides his opinion regarding bussing and school integration and briefly discusses Reverend Milton Galamison. He also explains his interpretation of the slogan "Freedom Now" and provides his views on the Black Nationalism movement. Dr. King recalls when he was physically attacked by African American men and women and proposes the reasons behind the attacks. Dr. King also briefly discusses the type of audience that he usually addresses.


Alan Lytle has more than 25 years of experience as a Kentucky broadcaster. Over that span he has earned multiple awards for anchoring, writing and producing news & features for WUKY. He took home the Kentucky Broadcasters Association's Best Radio Anchor award in 2021.