CCSD to use recovered MLK tapes as curriculum materials

CCSD to use recovered MLK tapes as curriculum materials
February 03 17:29 2018 Print This Article

Education consultant Mark Epstein, who retired as a guidance counselor at St. John’s high school after a long career as a counselor and basketball coach, turned over two hour-long audio tapes recovered recently from a speech Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered at a synagogue in his hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts in 1961 to the Charleston County School District (CCSD).  Barbara Hairfield, the CCSD K-12 social studies curriculum specialist, said the tapes will serve as a great curriculum material for students at multiple grade levels.  In a press conference at Saffron restaurant in downtown Charleston, Hairfield said, “While it is Black History Month, we try to incorporate civil rights history and the black experience into our curriculum throughout the year.”  She said that the audio tapes will give students an opportunity to learn about the civil rights movement in context, rather than just memorizing facts and dates.

Epstein said that having the students hear the tapes presents a unique opportunity.  He said, “We have a chance that doesn’t come along often.  We have a chance to impact the lives of thousands of students and those of adults, as well.”  Epstein noted that students will be able to have a meaningful dialogue on the civil rights movement after hearing the tapes.

The 1961 speech had a much more calm and cerebral tone than King’s famous 1963 I Have A Dream speech in Washington, DC. King told the Massachusetts audience that he went to college at Boston University and Harvard and felt at home there.  He spoke about progress in race relations in the South and that millions of whites in the South were people of good will.  King noted that even after the 1954 Brown V. Board of Education Supreme Court decision which called for school integration, only 6% of black students in the South attended school with whites.  He also told the audience about the arbitrary poll tests which prevented many black citizens from voting and the lack of economic opportunity for blacks in the South.  King expressed his love for America and told the audience, “America’s religious institutions must be the guardians of morality.”

State Representative Wendell Gilliard told the audience at Saffron, “That speech is just as important today as it was in 1961.  Dr. King was talking about economic empowerment and the need for better race relations.  We must grasp the moment and have a better dialogue on issues which still exist today.”  Gilliard said that common sense and dignity are often lacking in politics.  James Island resident Christine Jackson, the first cousin of Loretta Scott King, and her daughter Kathy, attended the press conference.

You can hear one of Dr. King’s 1961 audio tapes here.