Cleveland: MLK Glenville speech rediscovered

11:54 PM, Jan 16, 2012   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- A recording of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. is getting new attention after a second copy was found in 2010 by a Glenville High School art teacher and a student who were searching through items the school library was discarding.

The April 26, 1967 speech, preserved on reel-to-reel tape, was given to several hundred students and teachers during one of King's trips to Cleveland.

He was visiting the city at the request of a group of black ministers a year after riots in a city neighborhood.

In the 21-minute speech King says, "Our power does not lie in Molotov cocktails. ... Our power lies in our ability to say nonviolently that we aren't gonna take it any longer."

The original recording is in the possession of Pearl Livingstone, a retired teacher.  It was given to her in the early 1970's by her neighbor, who was an administrator at Glenville High School. Livingstone dubbed the speech onto a cassette.

"I used to play it for my children at home and we talked about it," she told WKYC. "And then I played it in school also."

Livingstone was teaching in the Brecksville School District at the time, and recently made CD copies of the speech to distribute to fellow educators. She did not know until now that a second copy had been found at Glenville.

"I've always considered him one of the heroes of the 20th century," Livingstone said, "and here he was speaking in Cleveland, at Glenville High School.

King's speech was frequently interrupted by applause, as the famed civil rights leader and orator quoted Victor Hugo, Longfellow, Emerson, and Langston Hughes.

"We must never again be ashamed of ourselves. We must never be ashamed of our heritage," King intoned to bursts of rousing applause. "We must not be ashamed of the color of our skin. Black is as beautiful as any color and we must believe it."

Livingstone remembered a passage of King's on the need for every black person of the day to excel in whatever endeavor they had undertaken.

"Set out to do a good job and do that job so well that nobody can do it any better," he began. "If it falls your lot to be a streetsweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets like Beethoven composed music."

"Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say here lived a great streetsweeper who swept his job well."


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