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MLK at Western

Guide detailing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, December 18, 1963, speech at Western Michigan University.


Martin Luther Kings Jr. sitting at microphone.This guide highlights Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, December 18, 1963, speech at Western Michigan University. The pages include historical background, details about the recovery of the tape recording, transcription of the speech and question and answer session, primary source documents, and a list of library and Internet sources about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  

The speech transcription is important for several reasons. It adds to the body of knowledge about the development of Dr. King's work and ideas. Dr. King spoke at WMU just four months after he made his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. King's WMU address contains elements of earlier speeches and sermons, including his address at the Freedom Rally in 1957 and a sermon about loving enemies that he had given at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.   The speech transcription is also an important document for studying the continuing dialogue about racial prejudice and race relations on Western's campus.

The speech transcription and accompanying documents provide additional information to better understand Dr. King's enduring influence on Western's campus through the programs and curricula established in the late 1960s and the broader societal changes brought about by his nonviolent movement for civil rights and social justice for all.  

The Lost Tape

The tape recording of the live broadcast of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s December 18, 1963 speech was lost for almost 30 years. The tape was rebroadcast at the time of Dr. King's assassination in 1968 but was later lost until 1997 when Phill Novess contacted WMUK general manager, Garrard Macleod.  

A copy of King's address had been found on a reel‐to‐reel machine that Novess had acquired from his grandfather, Phillip Novess. The senior Novess owned a small grocery store on the east side of Kalamazoo and accepted the reel‐to‐reel tape recorder as collateral for groceries in the early 1970s. When he sold the grocery store and the tape player had not been reclaimed, Novess took it home and put it in his basement. He gave the tape to his grandson for restoration purposes. Novess' business, Eclipse Media Group, specializes in noise reduction and restoration of audio tapes. Novess restored the tape with the assistance of Kevin Brown, of Brown & Brown Recording & Music Productions in Portage.