“For the first time in 60 years,” our friends at WBEZ report, you can hear a 1952 speech given by a Chicago pastor that ends with “the famous crescendo” that Martin Luther King Jr. would echo 11 years later in his “I Have A Dream” speech.
The speaker at the 1952 Republican National Convention was Pastor Archibald Carey Jr., who would say:
“We, Negro Americans, sing with all loyal Americans: ‘My country ’tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty, Of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, Land of the Pilgrims’ pride From every mountainside Let freedom ring!’
“That’s exactly what we mean — from every mountainside, let freedom ring. Not only from the Green Mountains and White Mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire; not only from the Catskills of New York; but from the Ozarks in Arkansas, from the Stone Mountain in Georgia, from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Let it ring not only for the minorities of the United States, but for the disinherited of all the earth! May the Republican Party, under God, from every mountainside, LET FREEDOM RING!”
At the March on Washington 50 years ago today, as he ended his address King would say:
“This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, ‘My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.’
“And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
The two men knew each other and corresponded, Vanderbilt University historian Dennis Dickerson tells WBEZ. Dickerson says that if one of his students today so closely borrowed from someone else’s work, “we’d have a real problem.” But he says King’s use of Carey’s words has to be put in historical context.
“You have to understand the black church’s oral traditions,” Dickerson says. It was customary for one preacher to say to another, “I’m using that” if he heard something he liked.
Carey died in 1981. A niece, Dorothy Patton, tells WBEZ that she likens King’s use of her uncle’s oratory to what happens in science: “Somebody always gets their first, but there’s somebody else who does more with it.”
WBEZ says the 1952 recording was found at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kan. We’ll embed audio of the station’s report and of Carey’s address.