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Hearing MLK (1st of 3)

February 17, 2015

I first heard MLK speak, with my wife, Phyllis, at a fund raiser in Fort Wayne, IN (in the auditorium of the Scottish Rite), in early June 1963. It was a full house, very much a black audience as I recall. King spoke movingly, but with soberness and practicality. He was eloquent and forceful about reality, but I remember the speech as being also something of a report and a preview, to an audience who deeply knew what he was talking about and who were eager to help do something about it. It reminds me of the moment early in Invisible Man, when someone in the audience calls out, “Tell us, sir, what is to be done!” I remember this audience as being very soberly serious. And King seemed tired, and probably was.

Phyllis had grown up in Southeastern KY, on a subsistence farm in Hart Holler, just outside Corbin, that had been in the family since the1790s when one of the earliest wagon trains had come through the Cumberland Gap and gone just a bit farther into the mountains. As I wrote our check I glanced around, met the eyes of one man who seemed to have been watching us, and had the impression that we made a strange, perhaps puzzling sight. We were members of the younger generation, and who knew what a younger generaton might do.

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