Before Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his illustrious “I Have A Dream” speech—which called for an end to segregation and institutionalized racism during the 1963 March On Washington—he had a little practice prior to its Lincoln Memorial debut.
According to CNN, King had dropped the speech’s mighty words on a small audience at North Carolina’s Booker T. Washington high school only one year earlier. The 55-minute dialogue was longer than the highly publicized version he presented on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and was audio recorded by a member present in the school’s gym audience.
Herbert Tillman, a former Booker T. Washington student who was 17 years old during the time of King’s precursor speech, perfectly recalled that day in the gym auditorium. He said that the gym was filled to capacity when he arrived to hear the proclamation. As soon soon as he hit the stage, Tillman said, the crowd erupted in praise and admiration for MLK. “I’d never heard anybody put all those kind of words together and let them flow like liquid. And he was crystal clear, and he was saying that we can walk together,” he recalled.
After entering the lost files for 53 years, an unnamed person came across the recording and sent it off to a local historian. Jason Miller, who studies at North Carolina University, received the reel to confirm its authenticity. Dusting off the historical audio recording, he legitimized it and passed it on to the author of the Library of Congress’ guide on audio restoration, George Blood. Now that it’s dusted off and digitized, the entire world can bear witness to another one of the Civil Rights forerunner’s most glorious moments.
Hit play on the historical greatness below.