MLK Day

King,MartinLuther001.jpgSome years ago, when I was working as an archivist at Drew University in Madison, NJ, I had the honor of tracking down something really wonderful. Of course, archivists, librarians, and book dealers are always locating wonderful things, but this was truly special. It was the original audio of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “American Dream” speech, which he gave at Drew on Feb. 5, 1964.

A history professor had called the University Archives to ask about the audio; rumors had circulated for years that such a recording existed. There was an unofficial audio archivist -- a nonagenarian who had been on campus for 40+ years recording every lecture or event he could get to. But our Archives, like many Archives, was an accumulation of 150 years worth of stuff without one fully funded archivist. By whatever stroke of luck, after determining the date of the historic event using the student newspaper, that audio archivist and I unearthed the reel-to-reel. He transferred it to audio tape. The story was written up in the local paper, and the university celebrated a proud moment in its history.

Coincidentally, a graduate student who worked with me in the Drew Archives is now an archivist working on a very important civil rights collection. Archives from Atlanta, the Cradle of the Civil Rights Movement is a Council on Library and Information Resources funded collaboration between Emory University and the Auburn Avenue Research Library to process and make available the records of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Atlanta Chapter of the NAACP, and the personal papers of Andrew J. Young.

The Auburn Avenue Research Library is hosting a number of events that will be of interest to collectors of African Americana, specifically the program on Feb. 6: Save Our African American Treasures: A National Collections Initiative of Discovery and Preservation.
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