Audio from 1952 GOP convention shows extent to which MLK Jr. borrowed from Chicago preacher’s speech.
August 28, 2013
By: Derek John
Long lost speech helped inspire Dr. King’s dream
Archibald Carey, Jr’s 1952 GOP convention speech [RARE AUDIO]
A few decades ago, on a steamy, summer day a black preacher spoke before an enormous crowd about a nation free from racial strife. “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,” continued the preacher as he built to a dramatic climax. “From every mountainside, let freedom ring. Not only from the Green Mountains and the 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 Great Smokies of Tennessee and from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia — let it ring.”
Pastor Archibald Carey, Jr. spoke these words in 1952 at the Republican National Convention in Chicago more than a decade before Martin Luther King, Jr.’s appropriated them for his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. As we mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, it’s fascinating to finally hear how much the earlier speech to a raucous GOP convention helped inspire Dr. King.
(courtesy of the Chicago History Museum)Archibald J. Carey Jr. circa 1960.
Carey died in 1981 and for many years, his speech was thought to be lost to history — its mere existence known only to a handful of scholars. But WBEZ recently discovered the landmark 1952 civil rights speech on a 16 rpm, 7-inch Gray Audograph disc at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kan.
Now for the first time in 60 years, we can listen again to Carey’s original speech — bold and brave for its time — including the famous crescendo at the end that directly inspired Dr. King.
Here’s the beginning of King’s final passage in his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech:
“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.”
Compare that to the earlier 1952 GOP convention speech by Archibald Carey:
“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!”
Why the 1952 Republican national convention?
Carey was one of the few GOP office holders in Chicago, black or white, when the 1952 convention came to town and he was already known for his public speaking. While it may seem odd in hindsight that Carey gave the speech at a GOP convention, Vanderbilt University historian and Carey biographer Dennis C. Dickerson reminds us that the times were very different then.
“When push came to shove it was usually GOP votes that could be counted on for black civil rights,” he says. “Carey knew that and was trying to help the party re-brand itself as the party of Lincoln.”
Dickerson continued, “When he uses that poetry and prose he’s speaking to more than just the GOP party. He’s speaking to the nation at large that queries ‘what do these black people want?’”
(WBEZ/Derek John)A photograph of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr at the house of Chicago preacher Archibald Carey, Jr., on the left. According to Carey’s niece the two developed a close relationship.
Carey’s speech was widely commended and he received hundreds of telegrams from all over the country, including some promoting him to be Dwight D. Eisenhower’s running mate. After the Eisenhower-Nixon ticket was elected Carey was appointed to several administration posts and became a delegate to the United Nations. When Barry Goldwater became the party’s nominee in 1964, however, Carey made the decision to switch over to the Democrats.
How did Carey’s words end up in MLK Jr’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech?
Although Carey delivered his address a full three years before the Montgomery bus boycott, it was only a matter of time before he and Dr. King crossed paths. Eventually the Georgia preacher found his way to Carey’s church in Chicago.
The historic Quinn Chapel AME still stands on South Wabash Avenue today and on a recent Sunday morning, some longtime members recalled Dr. King’s visits fondly.
I remember two occasions that he was at Quinn Chapel,” says Carolyn Dodd. “I think the first one it was such a crowd here I was sitting in the balcony and I don’t think I had to sit in the balcony but once or twice since that time.” Ruth Dunham remembers when Dr. King came to Chicago to fight for open housing on the West Side. “Rev. Carey was with him then,” she recalled. “They marched together, and you got a feeling they were very close, very close.”
Close enough to share their speeches? Dennis C. Dickerson says we’ll probably never know.
“We don’t have a letter saying ‘Dear Martin, here’s my speech. Good luck using it in your speech.’ But clearly we know they interacted many times and corresponded many times,” he said.
This isn’t the first time questions have been raised about Dr. King’s source material (the most glaring example being his early doctoral dissertation). But Dickerson says in this case you have to understand the black church’s oral traditions.
WBEZ/Derek John)Dorothy E. Patton, Archibald Carey’s niece, is the only surviving family member who remembers her uncle’s speech. A retired scientist, she compares King’s use of her uncle’s oratory to the way researchers build on each other’s experiments.
“Let me put it like this. if one of my students did it [plagiarize], we’d have a real problem,” Dickerson said. “But it is the custom among black clergy to hear a great sermon or a great speech and just say to the author I’m using that. “
Dorothy E. Patton, Carey’s niece, still remembers watching her uncle’s convention speech on television in 1952. Patton says both Carey and Dr. King drew from the same rhetorical well of scripture and history — her uncle simply got there first.
“I’m a scientist and if you look at the history of science,” Patton says, “somebody did the first experiment and it sort of got in the back of the file cabinet somewhere, and then somebody else comes along and runs with it.”
It’s a nice thought: the elder Carey passing the baton to the younger King who carried it across the finish line in 1963. And why not? Dickerson, in his biography, includes a letter from Carey with the following words.
“When I need help,” Carey wrote, “I can count on Martin Luther King, and when he needs help he can count on me.”
Special thanks to archivist Kathy Struss at the Eisenhower Presidential Library and WBEZ engineer Adam Yoffe.
Archibald J. Carey, Jr (1908 – April 21, 1981) was an American lawyer, judge, politician, diplomat and clergyman from the south side ofChicago. He was elected as a city alderman and served for eight years under the patronage of the politician William L. Dawson. He served for several years as a pastor in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, when he became known as a civil rights activist. In 1957 he was appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as chair of his committee on government employment policy, working to reduce racial discrimination.
Appointed to the federal Circuit Court in 1966, Judge Carey became a major figure in Chicago’s political life, serving until 1979. He won numerous awards for his oratorical skills and contributions to civic improvement.
Early life and education
Born to Archibald Carey and his wife, Carey, Jr. was a native of Chicago. He attended Wendell Phillips High School. He graduated from John Marshall Law School in Chicago. In college he became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
After being accepted to the bar, Carey set up a practice in Chicago. He became politically active and allied with William L. Dawson, a leading African-American politician on the city’s South Side. Carey was twice elected to serve as an alderman from Chicago’s Third Ward, serving from 1947 to 1955. During this time, he was chosen to give a speech to the 1952 Republican National Convention, which met that year in Chicago, and called for equal rights for all minorities.
The following year, Carey was appointed as an alternate delegate from the United States to the United Nations, serving from 1953 to 1956. On August 3, 1957, he was appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhoweras Chair of the President’s Committee on Government Employment Policy, the first African American to hold this position. Already a confidante of Martin Luther King, Jr. and active in the national civil rights movement, Carey worked to end employment discrimination in the government against blacks.
Carey was appointed as a federal Circuit Court judge in Chicago in 1966. He served until 1978, when he was forced by law to retire from the bench at 70 years of age. Because of the court’s large caseload, he was reappointed to serve another year.
In 1960 Carey addressed the World Methodist Council held in Oslo, Norway that year, discussing how AME activists in the United States drew from Wesleyan theology and praxis in their approach. He noted that they were inspired by the work of Richard Allen, the founder and first bishop of the AME Church. He was among numerous AME clergy and members who were active in the civil rights movement, but the institution as a whole at the time did not strongly embrace activism. Carey served as pastor of Quinn Chapel AME Church in Chicago through 1967, when he was named pastor emeritus.
He died on April 21, 1981 in Chicago.
“Let Freedom Ring”
The following is an excerpt from the end of Carey’s speech to the 1952 Republican National Convention.
“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 mountain side, 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 persecuted of Europe, for the rejected of Asia, disfranchised of South Africa and for the disinherited of all the earth—may the Republican Party, under God, from every mountainside, ‘LET FREEDOM RING.'”
The historian D. D. Hansen notes that some critics suggest that Martin Luther King Jr. plagiarized from this speech in creating his own celebrated “I have a dream” speech, while others disagree, noting that many of the motifs and tropes were part of a common language.