Martin Luther King's Tyneside speech to feature in BBC documentary

The speech Martin Luther King gave to Newcastle University students in the 1960s is the focus of a new TV documentary

Civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King at Newcastle University for the receiving of an honorary degree
Civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King at Newcastle University for the receiving of an honorary degree

The speech Martin Luther King gave to Newcastle University students in the 1960s is the focus of a new TV documentary.

A King’s Speech – Martin Luther King on Tyneside will be presented by comedian Lenny Henry and shown on Sunday night on BBC One.

Martin Luther King’s lecture, which was given when he accepted an honorary degree from the university in November 1967, is noted for his message on the importance of defeating racial injustice in England.

Speaking to a spellbound audience, he told the young students: “It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless.

“There can be no separate white path to power and fulfilment short of social disaster, and so that is a challenge and a great one.

“Wherever racial injustice is alive we must not be defeated. This day will remain dear to me for as long as the chords of memory shall lengthen.

“Your honouring me today in this very meaningful way is of inestimable value.” The documentary is believed to involve Lenny Henry taking the speech to audiences in America and revealing new images from his visit to Newcastle, as well as speaking to the students lucky enough to be in the audience during his address.

Speaking on the BBC’s One Show on Wednesday ahead of the programme airing, civil rights specialist Professor Brian Ward, of Northumbria University, said Dr King’s time in the North East gave him affirmation of the value of his struggle both in America and overseas.

He said: “He’s exhausted and struggling to work out what the next move should be strategically, and to be feted by a city that says ‘You’re doing great work, go back and carry on’ was of disproportionate value to him at that time.”

A King’s Speech – Martin Luther King on Tyneside is on BBC One on Sunday at 10.55pm.

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