The speech by Dr. King was delivered as an address at an event recognizing the struggle of Soviet Jews for the right to emigrate freely from the Soviet Union. The words of Dr. King convey a deep sense of interrelatedness between the struggle of African Americans for civil rights and the struggle of Soviet Jews to practice their religion freely and to emigrate at will. It is obvious from the audio recording of his speech that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was deeply concerned by the plight of Soviet Jews and saw a direct analogy between the condition of African Americans and the life of Jews in the Soviet Union under totalitarian communist rule. In Dr. King’s own words, “A denial of human rights anywhere is a threat to the affirmation of human rights everywhere.”
The MLK tape is one of hundreds recording various aspects of the American Soviet Jewry Movement reformatted onto CD-ROM with grant funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The recordings can be accessed in the Reading Room of the Center for Jewish History. Please contact archivist Tanya Elder for information about the audio collection. Or call 212-294-6160.