Updates on two Kings: Martin Luther and Richard III

Great news on two King fronts. First, the interview with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. discovered in a Nashville attic has been bought by magician David Copperfield. This is great news because he’s donating it to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, the museum located in the Lorraine Motel, the place where Martin Luther King was assassinated.

David CopperfieldCopperfield enjoys collecting historical objects, particularly magic ones (remember the 1906 verbal gypsy fortune teller?), and even though Dr. King never made the Statue of Liberty disappear, as a dream merchant David has been inspired by the man who so famously expressed his own dream of equality and freedom with world-shifting results. He was particularly moved by the intimate, conversational tone of the recording, since so much of what we hear of Martin Luther King Jr. are speeches and sermons.

Copperfield didn’t want the recording to fall into a private collection never to be heard again, so he bought it himself and picked the National Civil Rights Museum because it’s in Tennessee, the same state where the interview was held and the recording found. The estimated monetary value of the recording was $100,000, but the price Copperfield paid has not been disclosed.

Barbara Andrews, Director of Education and Interpretation at the National Civil Rights Museum, said the museum plans to integrate the recording into the exhibit in the motel room where King stayed the last nights of his life. Few museums have audio from Dr. King integrated into their displays — probably because the King Center has the lion’s share of that material — so this will be a rare and important addition to their collection.

Andrews also said this:

The donation of this recording to the museum offers the opportunity to hear from this civil rights giant one more time – almost as though we are able to connect with him in the present again. At the time of this recording, the world and the movement were at a crossroads: the teeming war in Vietnam helped to shape the evolving foci of Dr. King’s work. On the one hand his attention was turned to the matter of economic justice and eradicating poverty while simultaneously pressing to move America’s moral compass toward human rights and away from the war effort on the other.

Martin Luther King Jr. at Ebenezer Baptist ChurchUnless it’s a bald misquote, I’m afraid this statement is just plain false. The interview was recorded on December 21, 1960. At that time, the end of the Eisenhower administration, there were fewer than a thousand US military personnel in Vietnam. It was a year after that before the first American soldier died in Vietnam. Kennedy increased the number of covert troops to 16,000 by the time of his assassination in November of 1963, but real ground troop escalation started under Johnson in August of 1964 after the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution granted him carte blanche for combat operations in Vietnam. The first anti-war demonstration took place in San Francisco in December 1964.

Martin Luther King Jr. was working with Johnson on the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in 1964 and 1965, so he was reluctant to voice full-throated opposition to Vietnam. His first public statements against the war came in March 1965, and they were attenuated. He expressed dismay that “millions of dollars can be spent every day to hold troops in South Viet Nam and our country cannot protect the rights of Negroes in Selma,” but he made a point of expressing sympathy for the president’s predicament and supporting Johnson’s call for a diplomatic solution. He first detailed his opposition to the war in specific terms in his Transformed Nonconformist sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on January 16, 1966 (see page 6 for his indictment of the war).

I will spare you the artless segue about kings and war and instead just abruptly switch tracks to Richard III. The excavations under the Leicester parking lot have already born significant fruit. They’ve found the remains of the Church of the Grey Friars.

Medieval remains uncovered on site, picture from University of LeicesterWhen last we saw our heroes from the University of Leicester excavation team, they weren’t even certain they had the right location. Various places had been suggested in the years since development obscured the ruins of the church, and there was a good chance that any identifiable remains could have been destroyed by later construction. As soon as the first two trenches were dug, it was clear the worst case scenario was not going to materialize.

Medieval inlaid floor tiles from the friary, picture from University of LeicesterThe trenches revealed tiled floors at right angles to each other, one a north-south passageway six and a half feet wide, the other an east-west structure sixteen feet wide. North of the east-west floor they found an open space and then a wall five feet thick. The floor tiles are medieval. Archaeologists think the north-south passageway and the intersecting floor were part of the cloister, a square covered walkway around a peristyle garden characteristic of many monastic communities. Cloisters were often built against the warm south side of a church, so that thick wall may be the south wall of the Greyfriars church.

Medieval remains in one of the trenches, picture from University of LeicesterOn Saturday, the team dug a third trench in the parking lot next door to see if that wall extended eastward, and it does! They found a continuation of the wall, a second wall about 25 feet north and a mortar floor between them. The floor was probably originally tiled as well, but those tiles have been lost.

Dig leader Richard Buckley enthuses:

“The size of the walls, the orientation of the building, its position and the presence of medieval inlaid floor tiles and architectural fragments makes this almost certainly the church of the Grey Friars.

The next step – which may include extending the trenches – will seek to gain more information on the church in the hope that we can identify the location of the choir and high altar. Finding the choir is especially important as this is where Richard III is recorded as having been buried.”

Architectural fragments from the friary buildings, picture from University of LeicesterThe site will be open to the public this weekend for a short window. On Saturday, September 8, from 11 AM to 2 PM, visitors will be allowed to see the excavation and some of the tiles and architectural remains that have been found thus far. Admission is free, but expect to wait in line because this story has spread far and wide and doubtless there will be crowds of people wanting to catch a glimpse of the work in progress.

If anyone reading this goes, please tell us all about it in the comments, or email me via the contact form and I’ll post it.

9 thoughts on “Updates on two Kings: Martin Luther and Richard III

  1. In 1967 Dr. King made another lucid observation about war versus internal inequalities that ought to be remembered now, more than any time since then, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

    This quote appears on page 336 of “The Two Faces of American Freedom” published in 2010. (For those of you unfamiliar with this work, be advised that the author is hardly a bleeding-heart liberal.)

  2. You might want to reflect that we actually do spend more on social programs than on defense. By several orders of magnitude. Lucid perhaps but hardly prophetic.

  3. Parse it all you want. “Programs of social UPLIFT” are a subset of “social programs”. Look up the Federal budget and do the math. Even if you use the 20% for defense, there isn’t room for another order of magnitude. And, look at the SPENDING over the past 10 years on our pursuits in Iraq and Afganistan and imagine how those resources could have been applied here at home–to the American people. Dr. King’s quote is as lucid today as it was 45 years ago. It seems to me, that’s rather prophetic.

  4. Oh puhlease….

    “During FY 2011, the federal government spent $3.60 trillion on a budget or cash basis, up 4% vs. FY 2010 spending of $3.46 trillion and up 20% versus FY2008 spend of $2.97 trillion. Major categories of FY 2011 spending included: Medicare & Medicaid ($835B or 24%), Social Security ($725B or 20%), Defense Department ($700B or 19%), non-defense discretionary ($646B or 19%), other ($465B or 12%) and interest ($227B or 6%). Expenditures are classified as mandatory, with payments required by specific laws, or discretionary, with payment amounts renewed annually as part of the budget process. Expenditures averaged 20.6% GDP from 1971 to 2008, generally ranging +/-2% GDP from that level. The 2011 and 2010 spend were both 24.1% GDP, versus 2008 spend of 20.8% GDP.[8]”

  5. As a history major and a lover of the war of the roses and anything tudor, this discovery of the church of the grey friars is HUGE. Thanks for keeping me updated daily and I wish I could go to England this weekend 🙁

  6. The leftist agenda and forced narratives pollute so much of pure historical research that it’s truly repugnant. Stick to the facts as the author and vanderleun did.

  7. I hate to drag the discussion even more off-topic (by my count, OT comments already outnumber comments directly related to the post), but I do want to note two things. First, vanderleun has left out a few facts. Defense spending includes such non-ostensibly military expenditures such as the Department of Energy (i.e., nukes), of course some of the interest paid on the debt has to be counted in the defense column, and so forth. A few of these additional facts are detailed in this 2011 article:


    Second, it is gratifying to see conservatives recognizing both Wikipedia and climate change as coming within the orbit of facts. Perhaps there is hope a majority of their brethren may finally abandon the denial of reality that has characterized them so strongly for more than a decade (though vanderleun still needs to look up the meaning of “order of magnitude”).

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