Friday, January 23, 2009

WNPR kicks off 'Basement Tapes Project' with recording of MLK at The Bushnell

Connecticut Public Radio (WNPR-FM, 90.5) has launched "The Basement Tapes Project," an effort to find "long-lost audio gems" and put them on the air. The station invites listeners to scour their basements and attics for records, tapes, or any other audio recording that represents a piece of Connecticut history. (Look under the "Services" tab on the left side of the station website for contact information.)

To prime the pump, the station has posted a recording of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech at The Bushnell in 1959. King, invited by the University of Hartford’s Hillyer College to give a speech on "the future of integration," was just 30 at the time. The U of H has posted an article on the visit, along with audio clips from the speech, the flyer advertising the speech, and King's publicity photo from the period.

By the way, check the Hartford Courant's Capitol Watch blog for Chris Keating's MLK Day entry on the summers a teen-aged King spent working on a Simsbury tobacco farm. It was King's first time out of the segregated South, and his wonder at the different way of life here was apparent in his letters home. The most moving quote: "Yesterday, we didn't work, so went to Hartford. We really had a nice time there. I never thought that a person my race could eat anywhere, but we ate in one of the finest restaurants in Hartford."

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