NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Stephon Tull was looking through dusty old boxes in his father's attic in Chattanooga a few months ago when he stumbled onto something startling: an audio reel labeled, "Dr. King interview, Dec. 21, 1960."
He wasn't sure what he had until he borrowed a friend's reel-to-reel player and listened to the recording of his father interviewing Martin Luther King Jr. for a book project that never came to fruition.
In clear audio, King discusses the importance of the civil rights movement, his definition of nonviolence and how a recent trip of his to Africa informed his views. Tull said the recording had been in the attic for years, and he wasn't sure who other than his father may have heard it.
"No words can describe. I couldn't believe it," he told The Associated Press this week in a phone interview from his home in Chattanooga. "I found ... a lost part of history."
Tull plans to offer the recording at a private sale arranged by a New York broker and collector this month.
Tull said his father, an insurance salesman, had planned to write a book about the racism he encountered growing up in Chattanooga and later as an adult. He said his dad interviewed King when he visited the city but never completed the book and just stored the recording with some other interviews he had done.
King had visited Africa about a month before the interview, and he discusses with Tull's father how leaders there viewed the racial unrest in the United States.
"I had the opportunity to talk with most of the major leaders of the new independent countries of Africa, and also leaders in countries that are moving toward independence," he said. "And I think all of them agree that in the United States we must solve this problem of racial injustice if we expect to maintain our leadership in the world."
Raymond Winbush, director of the Institute for Urban Research at Maryland's Morgan State University, said the tape is significant because there are few recordings of King detailing his activity in Africa.
"It's clear that in this tape when he's talking ... about Africa, he saw this as a global human rights movement that would inspire other organizations, other nations, other groups around the world," said Winbush, who is also a psychologist and historian.
"That to me is what's remarkable about the tape."