Just a few months after Wake Forest College admitted its first Black student, the college invited the first Black speaker to campus – The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. The year was 1962. But it wasn’t for another 30 years that a recording of Dr. King’s speech was uncovered by an instructor and researcher in the Department of Communication.
Susan Faust from Communication uncovered and transcribed this speech, and, with her husband, Wake Forest professor John Lwelleyn, wrote an academic paper about the importance of King’s words being delivered in that specific time and place. Dr. King was working to craft his message – one that would make history in 1963. As Dr. Lwelleyn said, “We know about August of 1963, but there’s a road to that, and one of those roads came through this campus.”
Recently, Wake Forest senior Jordan Allbrooks visited Z. Smith Reynolds Library’s Special Collections to read a transcript, and listen to a recording, of the speech in person.
“Reading and hearing it is powerful,” she said. “It reminds me of how he used what he learned from preaching and applied it to acts of social justice. It’s moving, and it prompts one to action, to defend and preserve Black humanity.”
And it announces Dr. King’s call to join a “beloved community” – centered on justice, equal opportunity, mutual acceptance, and shared power.
You can also hear Dr. King deliver some famous phrases from his “I Have a Dream” speech – probably the most significant speech of the 20th century – in his speech at Wait Chapel.
Today, you can hear the speech in the Special Collections room at Wake Forest’s Z. Smith Reynolds Library. Just make an appointment with the Z. Smith Reynolds Special Collections librarians.