DR. KING’S NEW YORK

As the nation remembers the slain civil rights leader 50 years after his assassination, we take a look at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life, activism, and legacy through the lens of the “King In New York” photography exhibition on view at the Museum of the City of New York. Sarah Seidman, Puffin Foundation curator of social activism at the Museum of the City of New York, joins us to share her perspective.

Aired on April 4, 2018. 

 

Work Sited:

Surrounded by supporters, advisors, and security personnel, Dr. King prepares for his speech at the United Nations. At left is NBC corrrespondent Ponchitta Pierce,April 15, 1967. Photo by Benedict J. Fernandez, Museum of the City of New York, gift of Mr. Benedict J. Fernandez, 99.150.6

Dr. Benjamin Spock, Dr. King and Monsignor Rice of Pittsburgh march in the Solidarity Day Parade at the United Nations building, April 15, 1967. Photo by Benedict J. Fernandez, Museum of the City of New York, gift of Mr. Benedict J. Fernandez, 99.150.9

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. addressing a crowd gathered outside the United Nations. Flags from Dag Hammarskjold Plaza fly in the rear. Here he made his speech declaring the war in Vietnam a racist war before an estimated 500,000 people, April 15, 1967. Photo by Benedict J. Fernandez, Museum of the City of New York, gift of Mr. Benedict J. Fernandez, 99.150.3

“While he was surrounded by the crowd before his speech at the United Nations on April 15, 1967, I dropped to my knees and caught Dr. King in a moment of deep thought. My determination in getting the photograph led me to my eventual friendship with Dr. King” Photo by Benedict J. Fernandez, Museum of the City of New York, gift of Mr. Benedict J. Fernandez, 99.150.3

Program for New York City’s “Community Salute” to Martin Luther King Jr., December 17, 1964. Museum of the City of New York, Portrait Archives, F2012.58.736.1

Handbill for Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam in New York, April 15, 1967. Museum of the City of New York, Gift of Michael D. Stallman, 2017.20.48

Martin Luther King and Mrs. Du Bois Peck, only grandaughter of W.E.B. Du Bois, at the (Freedomways) reception after the Du Bois Centennial Tribute at Carnegie Hall, February 23, 1968. Photo by Builder Levy, courtesy of the photographer

Martin Luther King at Reception after the W.E.B. Du Bois Centennial Tribute at Carnegie Hall where he gave the keynote speech, February 23, 1968. Photo by Builder Levy, courtesy of the photographer

[Martin Luther King Jr. with Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Coretta Scott King, and A. Philip Randolph at airport], undated. Photo by Austin Hansen, courtesy Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations, used by permission of the estate of Austin Hansen

[Martin Luther King Jr. with Harry Belafonte and George Goodman taping interview], 1957. Photo by Austin Hansen, courtesy Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations, used by permission of the estate of Austin Hansen

[Martin Luther King Jr. presides over Prayer Pilgrimage], 1957. Photo by Austin Hansen, courtesy Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations, used by permission of the estate of Austin Hansen

[Girl holding photograph of Martin Luther King at Memorial March], 1968. Photo by Austin Hansen, courtesy Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations, used by permission of the estate of Austin Hansen

[Martin Luther King with Coretta Scott King and Ralph Bunche at the United Nations], December 4, 1964. Photographer unknown, Courtesy of Daily Worker/Daily World Photographs Collection, Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Archives, New York University

[Martin Luther King Jr. speaks at the W.E.B. Du Bois Centennial Tribute], February 23, 1968.  Courtesy of Daily Worker/Daily World Photographs Collection, Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Archives, New York University

[From left: John Lewis, Whitney Young, A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer, and Roy Wilkins meet at Hotel Commodore to plan March on Washington], July 2, 1963. Photographer unknown, Courtesy Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-126847

Martin Luther King Jr. writes notes before delivering “Beyond Vietnam” speech at Riverside Church, April 4, 1967. Photo by John C. Goodwin, courtesy of the estate of John C. Goodwin

[Rev. Martin Luther King at press conference at Gracie Mansion], July 30, 1964. Photo by Dick DeMarsico, Courtesy Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-122988

[Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King outside Harlem Hospital], 1958. Photographer unknown, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery.

[Martin Luther King Jr. with Archbishop of New York Francis Joseph Cardinal Spellman and Governor Nelson Rockefeller at the New York Civil War Centennial Commission (Centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation)], September 12, 1962. Photographer unknown, Courtesy New York State Archives

[Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking at City College of New York commencement], June 12, 1963. Photo by Stephen Somerstein © 1963

John C. Goodwin From left: Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, historian Henry Steele Commager, Martin Luther King Jr., and Union Theological Seminary President John Bennett at Riverside Church, April 4, 1967 Digital print Courtesy of the estate of John C. Goodwin

[Martin Luther King, Jr. at City College of New York commencement with chancellor president of City College Dr. Buell Gallagher], June 12, 1963. Photo by Stephen Somerstein © 1963

 

TRANSCRIPT

> SKIES ARE CRYING TONIGHT BECAUSE WE MARK A VERY SOLEMN, PAINFUL, POWERFUL OCCASION.

50 YEARS AGO THIS EVENING, WAS THE LAST NIGHT OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.'S LIFE.

AND THAT EVENING, HE GAVE A SPEECH THAT DEFINED HIS LIFE'S JOURNEY.

I WANT TO THANK ALL OF YOU FOR BEING HERE, BECAUSE YOUR PRESENCE IS PART OF CONTINUING HIS DREAM.

LET US RISE UP TONIGHT WITH A GREATER READINESS.

LET US STAND WITH A GREATER DETERMINATION AND LET US MOVE ON IN THESE POWERFUL DAYS, THESE DAYS OF CHALLENGE TO MAKE AMERICA WHAT IT OUGHT TO BE.

WE HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE AMERICA A BETTER NATION.

LAST NIGHT, NEW YORK CITY HONORED THE 50th ANNIVERSARY OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.'S FINAL SPEECH.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO ALONG WITH POLICE AND THE PARKS DEPARTMENT WERE ON HAND TO LIGHT THE ARC IN CITY PARK.

ADDRESSING INJUSTICES TO AFRICAN-AMERICANS, WHILE CALLING FOR UNITY AND NONVIOLENT PROTESTS ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

AND WHILE MUCH OF DR. KING'S ACTIVISM WAS CONCENTRATED IN THE SOUTH, FROM MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA, WHERE THE HISTORICAL BUS BOYCOTT TOOK PLACE, TO THE STEPS OF THE CAPITOL, WHERE HE DELIVERED HIS FAMOUS 'I HAVE A DREAM SPEECH.'

AS PART OF OUR OWN CHASING THE DREAM SERIES.

THAT IMPACT IS NOW TANGIBLE THROUGH A COLLECTION OF PHOTOGRAPHS TITLED KING IN NEW YORK THAT TRACES THE CIVIL RIGHTS LEADERS ENCOUNTERED IN THE BIG APPLE FROM THE 1960s, UNTIL HIS ASSASSINATION IN 1968.

I WOULD LIKE TO WELCOME THE CURATOR OF THE DISPLAY.

HOW DID YOU COME ACROSS THESE PH PHOTOS?

WE WANTED TO COMMEMORATE MR.

KING ON THE 50th ANNIVERSARY OF HIS DEATH, WE HAD A FEELING THAT HE HAD A CLOSE CONNECTION TO NEW YORK AND WAS HERE A LOT.

SO WE STARTED DIGGING AND FOUND A LOT OF PRIVATE PHOTOGRAPHS, COLLECTIONS, AND WHAT WE FOUND WAS HE WAS HERE A LOT, AND HIS PRESENCE IN NEW YORK REALLY PROVIDES AN INTERESTING LENS THROUGH WHICH WE CAN VIEW HIM IN A KIND OF BROADER WAY.

HIS CIVIL RIGHTS WORK, BUT HOW HE RELATED IT TO GLOBAL ISSUES, HE SPOKE OUT AGAINST THE VIETNAM WAR ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS IN NEW YORK CITY, REALLY USED THE CITY AS A STAGE TO DO SO, TALKED TO LABOR UNIONS HERE.

SO WE BEGIN THE SHOW WITH A SERMON HE GAVE AT ST. JOHNS THE DIVINE DURING 1956 WHEN HE WAS JUST BECOMING A NATIONAL FIGURE AND HE SPOKE TO 12,000 PEOPLE THERE AND SORT OF JUST TAKE IT FROM THERE, HOW NEW YORK PROVIDES A GREAT MEDIA OPPORTUNITY FOR KING AND AS THE KIND OF GAETEWAY TO THE WORLD AD PROVIDES A PLATFORM FOR HIM TO SPEAK ON A RANGE OF ISSUES, BOTH LOCAL AND GLOBAL.

AND I THINK THAT DOES SPEAK TO THE WAY THAT WE'RE SORT OF RELOOKING AT HIS LEGACY, BECAUSE THERE WAS A LOT OF UNION WORK THAT THINGS THAT WORKED IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT.

ABSOLUTELY.

I THINK AS HISTORIANS HAVE DONE JUST AMAZING WRITING AND RESEARCH IN THE LAST 10, 20 YEARS ABOUT THE BLACK FREEDOM STRUGGLE AND WORK THAT HAS SHAPED ME AS A HISTORIAN AND A CURAATOR WANTED TO REPRESENT THT INDIVIDUAL FORM, HOW THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT HAD A GLOBAL SCOPE AND HOW KING DENOUNCED, NOT JUST RACISM, BUT MILITARISM AND MATERIALISM AND TO SUPPORT SO MUCH OF THAT WORK THAT HAS BEEN TAKING PLACE IN THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS.

HOW BIG IS THIS EXHIBIT WE'RE TALKING GOT?

THIS ISN'T JUST A FEW PHOTOGRAPHS, CORRECT?

IT'S OVER 40 PHOTOGRAPHS, WE PACK THEM IN.

IT STARTS IN 1956 AT ST. JOHN THE DIVINE, AND THEN WE GO UP, HE SPOKE IN CARNEGIE HALL IN 1958, ON WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN THE BIRTHDAY OF THE ICONIC BLACK ACTIVIST.

AND IT WAS A VERY INTERESTING SPEECH.

AND THEN WE GO BEYOND HIS DEATH ON APRIL 4, 1968 AND LOOK AT THE RECEPTION OF HIS MURDER IN NEW YORK CITY AND HOW NEW YORKERS GRIEVED, BUT ALSO CAME TOGETHER, YOU KNOW, TO PROTEST AND COMMEMORATE HIM.

AND FOR PEOPLE WHO MIGHT BE, YOU KNOW, STUDENTS OF DR. KING, BUT MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO GET TO THIS EXHIBIT, IS THERE A WAY TO SEE THIS PERHAPS ONLINE?

OR IF YOU COME TO THE CITY AT SOME LATER POINT?

RIGHT NOW IT'S ONLY ON THE WALLS OF THE MUSEUM, SO WE'LL HAVE TO BRING EVERYONE IN THAT WE CAN.

BUT I DO THINK THERE HAVEN'T BEEN ANY OTHER EXHIBITIONS ON THIS TOPIC, SO IT HAS BEEN EXCITING TO BRING TOGETHER THESE PHOTOGRAPHS FROM DISPARATE SOURCES SO IT WOULD BE AMAZING FOR THEM TO LIVE ON TOGETHER.

ESPECIALLY IF IT ADDS TO WHAT WE UNDERSTAND OF AN INCREDIBLY GREAT AND COMPLEX MAN.

LISTEN, SARAH, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US ON THE PROGRAM AND ESPECIALLY FOR THIS EXHIBIT OF 'KING IN NEW YORK.'

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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