Lost MLK Speech Uncovered At UCLA

WESTWOOD—Three years prior to his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, Martin Luther King Jr. paid a visit to the Los Angeles’ Westside, delivering a speech before a crowd at the University of California Los Angeles.

In 2015, as America celebrated what would have been the 86th birthday of the civil rights icon murdered for his then polarizing fight for racial equality, an audio recording of King’s address at UCLA on April 27th, 1965 has been uncovered.

MLK pictured at the bottom of UCLA's Janss Steps delivering the famed speech
MLK pictured at the bottom of UCLA’s Janss Steps delivering the famed speech

The recording, long thought lost to history, was recovered by archivist Derek Bolin and Tim Groeling, of the UCLA Department of Communication Studies.

“When people are walking the streets hungry and they have no jobs, and they see life as a long and desolate corridor with no exit sign, they become bitter, before offering hope for change,” King said. “Yes, we shall overcome, and I have faith in the future because I know somehow that, although the arc of the universe is long, it bends toward justice.”

Fifty-five minutes in length, King’s speech is available online, a gift to the masses that can be enjoyed by those hungry for an unheard dose of King’s singular public speaking.

“In 1965, he had a basic stump speech and had gotten very good at giving it, to the point where it became an oratorical tour de force,” Bolin said “Listening to his booming voice and confidence, it struck me that the wisdom seeping out of him was something you’d expect from someone in his 60s or 70s. But he was only 36. That was really impressive to me.”

The speech itself, delivered at the base of the school’s famed Janss Steps, is something of campus legend, a place marked by a plaque in honor of the late civil rights leader.

Like his immortal “I Have a Dream” speech, King’s Westwood address ends with the powerful phrase, “Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, I am FREE at last!”