There can’t be many speeches by famous speakers that manage to lie unheard for 50 years.
But that’s exactly what’s happened to a 1961 speech by Malcolm X. The former Nation of Islam leader sought out a speaking opportunity at Brown University in Rhode Island after he had read an article by student Katharine Pierce.
Pierce’s article in the Brown Daily Herald had been read by members of the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X wanted the chance to defend their views in public.
It was Pierce’s colleague, Richard Holbrooke, the editor of the Brown Daily Herald and eventual career diplomat, who pleaded the case with the University and then organised the speaking visit back in 1961.
And without any memoirs ever being produced by either Malcolm X or Richard Holbrooke, who died in 2010, that’s where the story of the speech seems to have stopped.
That is until a Brown senior Malcolm Burnley, assigned a creative writing task, ventured into the library vaults and started reading old copies of the University newspapers. A trail led from a single black and white photograph of Malcolm X and a short article to the writer of the original Brown Daily Herald article, Katharine Pierce.
Katharine Pierce confirmed the story and then…retrieved a long lost tape recording of Malcolm X’s speech from her attic.
He read his audience very, very well as a fine public speaker does
That point was confirmed by the dozens of eyewitnesses later interviewed by Malcolm Burnley in pursuit of his story. They all agreed that they might not have agreed with his views back in 1961 but Malcolm X was a compelling speaker.
The Principal Trainer at training business Time to Market. Based in Oxford, I run presentation and public speaking training courses, coaching sessions and seminars throughout the UK. Andrew Ivey on Google+
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