Appearing today, an article – Prelude to a Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1962 Speech to Recently-Integrated Wake Forest – by Susan Faust and John Llewellyn, uses archival research to place King’s speech in the context of integration at WFU, public perception of King in 1962 and contemporary media coverage. Among the many arresting passages of this contextualizing study are the following:
In responding to a critical letter dated October 9, 1962, specifically concerning the invitation of Martin Luther King, Jr. to speak on the 11th of the same month, Tribble wrote on October 16th:
I am sure you will recall from your student days how Wake Forest College students appreciate the measure of independence that they have in their organizations. . . . I can well understand how some people would object to some of the speakers invited by the students. In fact, there is difference of opinion among the students. They do not invite speakers on the basis of agreeing with their points of view, but rather on the basis of what these speakers may be thinking and saying and doing that may be significant in the contemporary period of history. It is also noteworthy that Mr. King is a Baptist minister. His message drew significantly from the Bible. (Letter, Integration file, Papers of President Tribble, University Archives)
[Addressing his WFU audience, King spoke] about the maladjustment of Biblical figures like Amos, historical figures like Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson, and religious figures like Jesus Christ and how they had “to be dismissed as dangerous rabble-rousers and agitators” before the victory [for change] was won. In this way, King has cleverly added his name to this distinguished list and tradition: Amos, Lincoln, Jefferson, Jesus Christ and King. In retrospect, advocacy of this technique by King became the headline for an article printed in The Charlotte Observer on October 13, 1962: “Maladjustment is Needed – King.”
The short AP wire story stated:
Rev. Martin Luther King, 35-year-old Negro integrationist, told 2,200 white and Negro persons here Thursday night that the biblical prophets, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Jesus were all “maladjusted to the evils around them.” The Baptist minister said the hope of the world lies in the emergence of “a society of the creative maladjusted.” King received a standing ovation after his talk in Wake Forest College’s Wait Chapel.
King ended the speech with the same passage that the world heard in his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, calling for “black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics” to join hands together while singing the Negro spiritual ending with “Free at last!”