Eight months before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington D.C., he spoke these words to a crowd of 1,800 people in a Rocky Mount gymnasium on November 27, 1962.
W. Jason Miller, Professor of English at North Carolina State University, found the recording, restored it and has now released it in a digital form. Miller said it is the first documented moment King speaks the refrain from his “I Have a Dream” speech.
“I couldn’t believe Rocky Mount played this critical moment in this speech’s history, a speech that is the most recognizable speech in American history,” Miller said. “I was stunned after all the archives, letters and papers I’d gone through that this had happened.”
“This is the key evidence documenting Dr. King used Langston Hughes’s poems. Hearing Dr. King say these words, it was literally the kind of thing we talk about with hair standing up on your arms and chills going down your spine,” he said. “You’re back in that moment in time, a moment that is historical, poetic, transformative and critical to our nation’s history.”