NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Visitors to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis on Monday got a chance to hear an audio recording of an interview with Martin Luther King Jr. that was discovered in a Chattanooga attic.
The recording, which was played for a “King Day” event at the museum, sheds new light on a phone call President John F. Kennedy made to King’s wife more than 50 years ago.
Historians generally agree Kennedy’s phone call to Coretta Scott King expressing concern over her husband’s arrest in October 1960 — and Robert Kennedy’s work behind the scenes to get King released — helped JFK win the White House.
The reel-to-reel audiotape was discovered by a man cleaning out his father’s attic. The father, an insurance salesman, had interviewed King for a book he was writing, but never completed it and stored the recording with other interviews he’d done.
The recording was eventually acquired by a New York-based collector who sold it to magician David Copperfield. Copperfield then donated the recording to the National Civil Rights Museum to promote King’s message of nonviolence.
The recording will be among exhibits at the newly-renovated museum scheduled to fully open in April.
“I think that it is just incredible that we get … to showcase this for our thousands of visitors,” said Barbara Andrews, the museum’s director of education.