From The WGBH Vault: Martin Luther King Jr.

By Bob Seay, Elizabeth Deane & WGBH Archives Staff

Jan. 16, 2012

BOSTON — On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we look back at a pivotal moment in the struggle for civil rights, captured in three gripping, exclusive interviews from the WGBH archives.

It was the spring of 1963, a few months after Alabama governor George Wallace called for “segregation forever” and a few months before the March on Washington, when WGBH producer Henry Morgenthau III and director Fred Barzyk filmed “The Negro and the American Promise,”  featuring author James Baldwin, Nation of Islam Minister Malcolm X and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The interviews reveal deep disagreement about the way forward for the movement and give a sense of the intense pressure on King. The interviewer is psychologist Kenneth Clark.

Martin Luther King Jr. (June 1963)

"There's a great deal of difference between non-resistance to evil and non-violent resistance. Non-resistance leaves you in a state of stagnant passivity and dead-end complacency. Wherein non-violent resistance means you do resist in a very strong and determined manner." Read a transcript of the interview.

James Baldwin (May 24, 1963)

This segment was filmed immediately after a frustrating three-hour meeting with Robert F. Kennedy — the so-called "secret meeting" — to discuss the racial situation in northern cities. You can see Baldwin take a moment to collect his thoughts at the start of the conversation. Read a transcript of the interview.

Malcolm X (June 1963)

"You don't integrate with a sinking ship. You don't do anything to further your stay on board a ship that you see is on its way down to the bottom of the ocean." Read a transcript of the interview.

Few people get to go inside the WGBH vault... a temperature-controlled storage room that houses thousands of tapes and recordings. It's a room full of living history and it helps WGBH News provide a perspective no one else has. Check out some of the materials, including original newscast coverage of the March on Washington, at Open Vault.

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