First Known Recording of Martin Luther King Jr. Speech Found in Phoenix Goodwill

First Known Recording of Martin Luther King Jr. Speech Found in Phoenix Goodwill

A newly discovered audio tape of a June 3, 1964 speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at Arizona State University, reveals the work he had to do to overcome the Democratic Party’s filibuster of the 1964 Civil Rights Act led by Senator Robert Byrd (a former member of the Ku Klux Klan who would become the Democrats’ Senate Majority leader during the 1990s). 

In one part of the speech, Dr. King advised black Americans to be the best at whatever it is they do and transcend race:

Don’t just set out to do a good negro job. You see, if you’re setting out merely to be a good negro teacher, or good negro doctor, good negro lawyer, good negro skilled laborer, good negro barber, good negro beautician – you have already flunked your matriculation examination for entrance into the university of integration. 

We must set out to do a good job and try with all of our might to do that job so well that the living, the dead, and unborn couldn’t do it any better.

The tape was found in a Goodwill store in Phoenix by Mary Scanlon, who purchased it for $3. Scanlon told the Associated Press, “I didn’t really necessarily have any expectation that this tape would be rare.” 

It turned out to be the only known recording of King’s speech at ASU’s Goodwin Stadium. The Goodwill store employees told the AP that the tape was originally in the mortuary of Phoenix civil rights activist Lincoln Ragsdale, who died in 1995.

Ms. Scanlon was warned not to try to play the tape on her own because old tapes of its type are easily ruined; instead, it was taken to a company in Kentucky and digitized. 

“To have anything about myself connected in any way to Martin Luther King, what more could a person ask for? I’m so proud,” Scanlon told the AP.