The Great March On Washington – one of the most significant recordings made during the civil rights movement of the 1960s – is now available as a digital release for the first time.
“I’m beyond thrilled that we can honour Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy by reissuing this important audio document. We at Motown want to thank the MLK estate for giving us the opportunity to build on the relationship that Dr. King and our founder, Mr. Berry Gordy, forged over 50 years ago. It was incredibly important to them that the speeches from the Great March on Washington reach the widest possible audience – and that is our objective also.” – Ethiopia Habtemariam, President of Motown Records and Executive Vice President of Capitol Records
This historic release was recorded on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on August 23rd, 1963, during the March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom, a.k.a. “The Great March on Washington.” Rush-released by Motown Records as a complete album in October 1963, the recording culminates with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s iconic “I Have A Dream” speech.
In addition to Dr. King’s historical “I Have A Dream” speech, The Great March On Washington features the iconic speech made that day by civil rights activist and labor union rights leader A. Philip Randolph, one of the leaders and organizers of the Great March. Following his seven-minute-plus speech that opens the album, Randolph’s erudite speaking voice continues throughout as the de facto “emcee.”
Randolph introduces the day’s other orators, including Walter Reuther, the president of the United Auto Workers (UAW) who was a longstanding ally of the civil rights movement; Roy Wilkins, the executive secretary of the NAACP who was named its executive director the following year; and Whitney M. Young, Jr., the executive director of the National Urban League and one of the organizers of the March.
The album also includes a stirring performance of “We Shall Overcome,” the traditional gospel song that became an anthem of the civil rights movement, recorded at Motown by its artist Liz Lands, who is accompanied by The Voices of Salvation.
Coinciding with the digital release of the album, TIME and executive producer Viola Davis invite the public to step back into history with THE MARCH – a groundbreaking VR museum exhibit that recreates the March on Washington and allows visitors to witness firsthand the “I Have a Dream” speech.
The immersive experience utilises original audio from Motown. TIME said, “King’s clarion voice carries without the distracting echo picked up by inferior attempts to capture it. Spectators on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial chime in audibly as King proceeds…making listeners feel as if they’re 10 ft. from the podium.” The exhibit at the Dusable Museum of African American History in Chicago will run through November 2020.
Taking inspiration from Dr. King and other civil rights activists who have been agents of change, BJ The Chicago Kid has created a soulful new call to action, “The People.” He wrote the song with frequent collaborator Jairus Mozee, who also produced.
“We are privileged and honored to be entrusted by the MLK estate to oversee the release of his historic speech. As the long-time custodians of the Motown catalog and its legacy, we will ensure that the recordings of Dr. King will be available in the highest quality. We have gone back to the original source tapes to digitally remaster this release, and the clarity of Dr. King’s voice brings his message to today’s audience in a remarkable way.” – Bruce Resnikoff, President/CEO of Universal Music Enterprises