AAPB Commemorates the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Through Public Media

Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Day is an annual holiday observed on the third Monday of January to commemorate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King was a chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism during the Civil Rights Movement until his assassination in 1968. The campaign for a federal holiday in King’s honor began soon after his death; however, President Ronald Reagan officially signed the holiday into law in 1983, and it was first observed three years later.

As MLK Day aims to celebrate the life and achievements of Dr. King, below is a selection of public radio and television programs that document King’s legacy, including his legendary speeches and influence on society.

1963

  • Context – The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom featured an estimated 250,000 peaceful demonstrators walking from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial to hear a political call to arms for economic equality and civil rights for African Americans. Credited with being the final impetus to the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the event famously ended with Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech – recording below.
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Leffler, Warren K, photographer. Civil rights march on Washington, D.C. / WKL. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2003654393/>.

Series: March on Washington Coverage by Educational Radio Network

Program: I Have a Dream Speech: Martin Luther King, Jr.

Contributing Organization: WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)

Description: Part 17 of 17, this program includes the Educational Radio Network’s (ERN) coverage of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, including Martin Luther King Jr.’s introduction and speech ““I Have a Dream”.

Direct Link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-9xp6v356

1964

June

Series: Long, Hot Summer ’64

Producing Organization: Educational Radio Network

Contributing Organization: WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)

Description: The Long, Hot Summer ’64 series was a weekly news report documenting the civil rights movement during the summer of 1964. This episode describes the arrest of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and 14 others on June 11, 1964, when they attempted to eat at the segregated Monson Motel. Reporters include Dr. Robert Hayling, the head of the movement in St. Augustine and two chaplains from Boston University, Bill England and Eugene Dawson, describe beatings during demonstrations that day and during the previous two evenings.

Direct Links:

Episode 1: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-50tqk2fw

Episode 2: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-02c86fs0

– – –

Episode: Violence

Series: Firing Line with William F. Buckley Jr.

Contribution Organization: Hoover Institution Library & Archives, Stanford University (Stanford, California)

“After the killing of Dr. King and after the killing of Robert Kennedy many, many people … gave their opinions, and I would like to tell you first that everybody seems to know where violence comes from – they know where the riots come from, where the wars come from, where murder comes from. I’m the only one who doesn’t know, so I’m considered an expert – at least I know one should find it out.” – Dr. Wertham, Discussant

Description: Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, Dr. Wertham, a practicing psychiatrist and longtime clinical student of violence, discussed how he cuts through the rhetorical excesses of the time. The television series Firing Line with William F. Buckley Jr. was a venue for debate and discussion on political, social, and philosophical issues with experts of the day.

Direct Link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_514-hm52f7kn3h

– – –

July

  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is passed — a landmark civil rights and U.S. labor law in the United States that outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It prohibits unequal application of voter registration requirements, racial segregation in schools, employment, and public accommodations.
Lyndon_Johnson_signing_Civil_Rights_Act,_July_2,_1964.jpg
President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr. looks on. Photo Source

– – –

October

  • Dr. King won the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. Below is a recording of the reception.

Episode: Reception for MLK’s Nobel Prize

Contributing Organization: WNYC (New York, New York)

“[I] can think of no one that has done more to give true meaning to that precious word called ‘peace.'” – Hubert Humphrey speaking of Dr. King.

Description: In celebration of Dr. King’s 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, WNYC recorded the evening’s events including speeches made by Hubert Humphry, New York Mayor Robert F. Wagner Jr., and Dr. King.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_80-4302vwz6

1967

Title: Martin Luther King, Jr. Speaks Against the Vietnam War

Contributing Organization: WYSO (Yellow Springs, Ohio)

Description: In 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. was President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and spoke against the Vietnam War. This program was produced by the SCLC as part of their “Martin Luther King Speaks” weekly series. The program is about lobbying efforts against proposed welfare legislation that brought together the National Welfare Rights Organization, the Peoples Coalition for Peace and Justice, and the Southern Christian Leadership. Conference. It includes short excerpts of King speaking at the beginning and end of the program.

Direct Link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_27-pr7mp4w42p

1968

April

  • Context – Martin Luther King Jr. was shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. Following MLK’s assassination, performer James Brown was to play a concert in Boston. In an effort to prevent rioting, the Mayor was advised to ask local station WGBH to broadcast the concert. Below is the beginning address of the historic concert.
Screen Shot 2019-01-20 at 9.03.29 PM.png
James Brown shakes hands with Boston Mayor Kevin White.

Title: James Brown and Mayor Kevin White Address the Crowd at the Boston Garden

Contributing Organization: WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)

Description: Following Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, James Brown was to play in Boston and is credited with preventing riots by agreeing to broadcast his concert on WGBH. This short excerpt from the 1968 concert features Councilor Tom Atkins and James Brown as they introduce Mayor Kevin White onto the stage at the Boston Garden. White addresses the crowd, urging they respect the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. Brown salutes Mayor White and sings “That’s Life.”

Direct Link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-qz22b8vs2h

– – –

  • Context – The Civil Rights Act of 1968, also known as the Fair Housing Act, is a landmark part of legislation that provided for equal housing opportunities regardless of race, religion, or national origin. The Act was signed into law during the King assassination riots by President Lyndon B. Johnson, who had previously signed the Civil Rights Act 1964 and Voting Rights Act 1965 into law.

Program: Civil Rights: What Next?

Producing Organization: National Educational Television and Radio Center

Contributing Organizations: Library of Congress (Washington, District of Columbia)

Description: This hour-long interconnected public affairs special emanated live from New York City and Washington, D.C., on Thursday, April 11, 1968 at 9 p.m. EST, the day President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights of 1968. The panel studied the meaning of the newly passed Civil Rights Bill in the aftermath of national mourning for Dr. Martin Luther King. Paul Niven moderated the discussion with James Forman, director of international affairs for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); Hosea Williams, national director of political education for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; and Floyd McKissick, executive director of the Congress of Racial Equality (Core). In Washington were John Field, director of community relations of the U.S. Conference of Mayors; James J. Kilpatrick, nationally syndicated columnist and former editor of the Richmond, Va. News leader; and Congressman Charles Mathias, Jr. (R-MD).

Direct Link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-741rq0bx

– – –

June

Title: Premier Episode of the Black Journal Series

Screen Shot 2019-01-21 at 9.43.26 AM.png
Coretta Scott King, WNET

Contributing Organizations: Thirteen WNET (New York, New York) and Library of Congress (Washington, District of Columbia)

Description: This episode served as the premiere episode of National Educational Television’s monthly magazine, Black Journal, the first of a series devoted to the interests and concerns of Black America. This segment includes a satire by Godfrey Cambridge, an address by Coretta Scott King, a report on the Poor People’s Campaign, and a study of the African American political reaction to Robert Kennedy’s assassination.

Full program at http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_62-5m6251fv96.

1977

Program: Nine years later: a Black panel on racism and civil rights since the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Part 1 of 2)

Contributing Organization: Pacifica Radio Archives (North Hollywood, California)

Producing Organization: KPFA (Radio station: Berkeley, Calif.)

Description: This program contains a panel discussion covering topics such as the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., his impact upon the Civil Rights movement, South Africa, the Vietnam War and the Black community, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Affirmative Action programs, the Bakke decision, capitalism, socialism, U.S. police forces, economics in the Black community, President Carter, racism at the University of California, the firing of Dr. Harry Edwards, and the future of struggle in the United States. Yvonne Golden moderates the panel. Panel members in this first hour include JoNina Abron, Gloria Davis, Dr. Harry Edwards, Enola Maxwell, and Joel Mitchell.

Direct Links –

Part 1: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_28-xg9f47hd10

Part 2: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_28-bc3st7f50p

1983

  • President Ronald Ragan officially signs Martin Luther King Day into law as a federal holiday.

1982

Screen Shot 2019-01-20 at 8.35.47 PM.png

Episode: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Commemoration

Contributing Organization: Rocky Mountain PBS (Denver, Colorado)

Description: Prime Time is a weekly program about Denver Public Schools hosted by Ed Sardella. This episode visited Garden Place Elementary School, Hallett Academy, and Manual High School, where students focused on the life and achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Direct Link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_52-580k6kxc

1985

Title: Long Black Song [Part 1 of 2]

Contributing Organization: Louisiana Public Broadcasting (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)

Description: This episode of the series North Star from 1985 focuses on the history of African Americans from the 1860s to the 1960s through the periods of Reconstruction, Segregation and the Civil Rights Movement. It features Dr. Valerian Smith performing excerpts from his musical composition “Tribulations,” a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. The host includes Genevieve Stewart, who goes into detail about specific aspects of African American history each episode.

Direct Link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_17-29b5ndnr

1985

Screen Shot 2019-01-20 at 8.38.28 PM.png
John Lewis’ transcript is searchable and accessible on AAPB’s site!

Title: Interview with John Lewis

Series: Eyes on the Prize

Producing Organization: Blackside, Inc.

Contributing Organization: Film and Media Archive, Washington University in St. Louis (St. Louis, Missouri)

Description: Interview with John Lewis conducted for Eyes on the Prize. Discussion centers on the voting rights movement in Selma, Alabama, his friendship with Martin Luther King, Jr., the relationship between SCLC and SNCC, his view on the philosophy of nonviolence, and his involvement in the March on Washington.

Direct Link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_151-cz3222s11s#at_674_s

1986

Episode: Rev. Michael Haynes

Series: From the Source

Contributing Organization: WUMB (Boston, Massachusetts)

Description: This episode of From the Source features guest Rev. Dr. Michael Haynes, a contemporary and colleague of Martin Luther King, Jr. and former MA state representative. During the interview, Haynes reflected on the newly-implemented Martin Luther King Day holiday and addressed caller questions about how young people could further King’s dream of racial equality. He also discussed the need to keep the pressure on political leaders regarding civil rights, King’s intellectual prowess, King’s sense of the hypocrisy of the institutional Christian Church in America, King’s 1965 address to the MA Legislature, and the religious foundations of King’s belief in the necessity of non-violence to achieve his goals.

Direct Link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_345-171vhk97

1988

Contributing Organization: NewsHour Productions (Washington, District of Columbia)

Description: This episode of NewsHour Productions features a segment on the 20 years following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Direct link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_507-804xg9ft7m

1989

Title: Commemorative Program for Martin Luther King, Jr. (1989)

Contributing Organization: WYSO (Yellow Springs, Ohio)

Description: This program was produced in 1989 to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. for the national holiday in his honor. It featured an excerpt from the commencement speech he gave at Antioch College in Yellow Springs.

Direct Link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_27-cf9j38kv54

2002

Screen Shot 2019-01-20 at 6.48.41 PM.pngProgram: Martin Luther King Convocation

Series: First Friday

Contributing Organization: Mississippi Public Broadcasting(Jackson, Mississippi)

Description: This episode of First Friday features highlights from Jackson State University’s 33rd Annual Martin Luther King Birthday Convocation. The goal of the ceremony is to celebrate and remember the contributions Dr. King made for nonviolent social change in America.

Direct Link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_60-77fqzfgz

2005

Program: The Contested Legacy of Martin Luther King, JR.

Contributing Organization: Hoover Institution Library & Archives, Stanford University (Stanford, California)

Description: During this program, Clayborne Carson, editor of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s papers, considered what would come of King’s legacy. Carson notes that in his time, King was a controversial figure and that King himself would likely be have been surprised on how lauded he is. Carson argued that there would not be a holiday in his honor if not for (a) the actions of Rosa Parks, et al., and (b) that he was assassinated before he could continue to say more provocative and controversial things authorities do not like to hear. Carson noted the meaning of King’s life was contested while he was alive, and will continue to be contested long after his death.

Direct Link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_514-w37kp7vs1r

2011

Screen Shot 2019-01-20 at 9.29.22 PM.png
Clayborne Carson, American Experience

Series: American Experience

Episode: Freedom Riders

Contributing Organization: WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)

Description: Explore four raw interviews with Clayborne Carson, a professor of history at Stanford University, and director of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute.

Direct Link: http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-qz22b8vs2hfixitt


About the AAPB:

The AAPB is a national effort to preserve at-risk public media and provide a central web portal for access to the programming that public stations and producers have created over the past 70 years. To date, over 90,000 items of television and radio programming contributed by more than 100 public media organizations and archives across the United States have been digitized, and the Archive aims to grow by up to 25,000 additional hours per year. The entire collection is available for research on location at WGBH and the Library, and currently, more than 37,000 programs are available in the AAPB’s Online Reading Room at americanarchive.org to anyone in the United States.

Donate to the AAPB here! http://americanarchive.org/donate


Curated by Ryn Marchese, AAPB Engagement and Use Manager

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