Before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech in front of a massive crowd in Washington DC in 1963, a small group in a high school gymnasium in North Carolina got to hear a preview.
North Carolina State University held an unveiling in the Hunt Library today of the never-before-heard recording of Dr. King giving the speech to Rocky Mount High School on Nov. 27, 1962, nearly a year before the famed rendition on Aug. 28, 1963.
The tape, believed to be the first version of the speech, was discovered by Jason Miller, an English professor at the school. (Hear portions of the tape on ABC-owned station WTVD-TV.)
Miller, who wrote “Origins of the Dream: Hughes’s Poetry and King’s Rhetoric,” stumbled upon the tape at a library in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, while conducting research on Dr. King and his use of Langston Hughes poetry in his speeches.
Miller told ABC News he found the tape in a box with Martin Luther King Jr.’s name scrawled in pencil on it, followed by the words, “Please do not erase.”
But there were no indications that the tape contained the famed speech.
“I thought that was the most understated,” Miller said. The tape itself was in good shape, Miller recalled.
“Hearing those words was absolutely remarkable,” said Miller, who knew immediately it was Dr. King based on his research of the civil rights leader.