The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (The King Center) and Syracuse University announce The King Center Audio and Visual Digitization Project, a collaboration that will ensure that the slain civil rights leader’s legacy will be preserved for generations to come. Working with the Atlanta-based King Center, SU will preserve and digitize some 3,500 hours of audio and video footage of King.
The King Center archive is the largest repository of primary source material on King and America’s civil rights movement in the world. Its collections include footage that few, including some members of the King family, have ever seen or heard. The center houses a number of unique holdings, like raw footage from various productions over the years. A 16 mm film of King speaking in Syracuse in July 1961 was also discovered. The speech explores many of the themes that would emerge in his landmark 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. The film at The King Center appears to be the only extant copy. There are also a large number of unlabeled reels and canisters that may contain undiscovered footage.
The partnership was set in motion during an April meeting when Martin Luther King III and U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young visited the SU campus. It was then that Suzanne Thorin, dean of libraries and University librarian, and Sean Quimby, senior director of the Special Collections Research Center , introduced the guests to some of the library’s most valued possessions, including letters written by Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington and Malcolm X. They also played an audio file of veteran journalist Mike Wallace interviewing King. The conversation shifted very quickly to the world of media preservation.
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