Say It Plain: A Century of African American Oratory

For generations, African American orators have been demanding justice and equality, reminding America to make good on its founding principles of democracy. Hear some of these seminal speeches in "Say It Plain."

When the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.'s I Have a Dream speech is broadcast each February to mark Black History Month, the magnetic cadence of his words is almost impossible to resist. King was a remarkable orator, but he was hardly alone. He was nurtured in a centuries-old African American tradition of spoken narrative and oral persuasion. Like black speakers before and after him, King testified to how America betrayed its founding ideals through slavery, segregation and racial bigotry. King and scores of other black orators sounded the charge against Jim Crow and stung the moral conscience of America. Many powered their messages with relentless optimism that one day change would come. They reminded Americans of how good they could be. Others offered a different version of utopia: a separate nation free of whites. This dramatic and moving program highlights a selection of landmark sermons, speeches and broadcasts by African American orators over the past century. From Booker T. Washington and Marcus Garvey, to Fannie Lou Hamer and Malcolm X, to Shirley Chisholm and Julian Bond, listeners will hear the stirring words of African American figures as they call for action on civil rights and the unmet promise of democracy. Say it Plain will give listeners a vivid audio portrait of black Americans exhorting the nation to make good on its democratic principles and, in so doing, actually changing the country.

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