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Tape of 1962 MLK speech found in state archives

A radio tape of a 1962 Manhattan speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. marking the centennial of the draft of the Emancipation Proclamation recently was found in state archives and will be part of an Albany exhibit next week on the day honoring the civil rights leader, officials said Monday.

King gave the speech on Sept. 12, 1962, at a Sheraton hotel after then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller persuaded him to do so by promising a personal contribution to burned-out churches of black congregations in Georgia, Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. told the state Board of Regents.

The tape by a radio reporter was found in the archives of the State Museum in Albany, the commissioner said. In an introduction to a three-minute video about the tape, he told Regents, "What you are about to hear is truly remarkable."

Martin Luther King's trademark sonorous voice then rang out. He closed by quoting what a country preacher once said of the Emancipation Proclamation: " 'Lord, we ain't yet what we want to be . . . but thank God, we ain't what we was.' " While the words were ungrammatical, King said in the speech, they were profoundly true.

The manuscript of King's speech and the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation -- the only surviving version written in President Abraham Lincoln's own hand -- were exhibited for the first time at several New York locations, including LIU Post, in 2012 and early last year in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the preliminary proclamation, issued Sept. 22, 1862. Lincoln's final version, signed Jan. 1, 1863, was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.

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