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Never-before-released Recordings of Dr. King at the Riverside Church (1961-1967)

Jan 16 2020

The King Institute, in partnership with The Riverside Church, has made available six audio recordings, previously unknown to historians, of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking at The Riverside Church in the City of New York between August 1961 and April 1967.

Perhaps the most famous of these speeches is “Beyond Vietnam”, originally delivered at The Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before King’s assassination. The speech condemned the Vietnam War and laid out a set of policy proposals to end it. While a recording of this speech has been publicly available for years, the new recording is significantly clearer and reproduces King’s speech as it would have been heard by public radio listeners at the time.

The other five audio recordings feature King delivering sermons from The Riverside Church pulpit: “Paul’s Letter to American Christians” on August 13, 1961; “The Dimensions of a Complete Life” on November 18, 1962; “A Knock at Midnight” on August 9, 1964; “The Man Who Was A Fool” on August 8, 1965; and “Transformed Nonconformist” on January 23, 1966.

These sermons had previously been delivered by King elsewhere, but the versions preached from the Riverside pulpit were notably altered from their original versions. King often referred to recent events and issues relevant to the Riverside congregation, in particular racial segregation and income inequality in New York City, and even referenced aspects of The Riverside Church’s neo-Gothic architecture and statuary to illustrate his sermons. These recordings have the potential to transform King scholars’ understanding of his intellectual and political development.

The King recordings were digitized as part of a larger joint project between The Riverside Church and the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB)The AAPB is a collaboration between the Library of Congress and WGBH, and coordinates a national effort to preserve at-risk public media before its content is lost to posterity, and provides a central web portal for access to the unique programming that public stations have aired over the past 70 years. In May 2018, The Riverside Church Archives received a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) to digitize, preserve, and make publicly accessible a previously unavailable collection of recordings from the public radio station WRVR. Owned and operated by The Riverside Church from 1961 to 1976, WRVR was the first station to win a Peabody Award for its entire programming, in part for Birmingham: Testament of Nonviolence , a six-part radio documentary covering the Civil Rights movement in Birmingham, AL in 1963.

About The Riverside Church

Located in Morningside Heights, The Riverside Church in the City of New York is one of the leading voices of progressive Christianity, influential on America’s religious and political landscape for 90 years. Built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. and Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick, the interracial, interdenominational, and international church has long been a forum for important civic and spiritual leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, and many others. It is currently led by interim Senior Minister Rev. Michael Livingston. Visit www.trcnyc.org or find us on social media to learn more about our rich history and the latest news and events.

About the American Archive of Public Broadcasting

The American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) is a collaboration between the Library of Congress and the WGBH Educational Foundation to coordinate a national effort to preserve at-risk public media before its content is lost to posterity and provide a central web portal for access to the unique programming that public stations have aired over the past 70 years. To date, more than 100,000 television and radio programs, and original materials contributed by more than 120 public media organizations and archives across the United States have been digitized for long-term preservation and access. The entire collection is available on location at the Library of Congress and WGBH, and more than 50,000 programs are available online at americanarchive.org.

About CLIR

The Council on Library and Information Resources is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning.  Clir.org

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