bo o b oekat
Martin Luther King Jr.
in words and music
The book and CD concept materialized while
Murphy li stened to the chairperson of the Choral
Arts Society of Washington describing his organization’s musical tributes to King. Murphy was moved
to learn that some 20 years of annual concerts at the
Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., have honored
The chorale featured on the disc starts the year
By Gloria Blakely
with music that once powered bruised bones to rise,
sore feet to march forward and weary souls to keep
struggling for freedom. Murphy knew that those
renditions of freedom songs, so rousing and integral
to the movement, such as “Lift Every Voice and
Sing,” “Guide My Feet,” “Rock-a My Soul” and a
King favorite, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” along
Interviews with peers with 12 other gospel classics, merited a place beside
For the book, Murphy explains, “we talked to narratives about the movement.
some of his [King’s] contemporaries, the people who The spirit that changed America soars as Voices’
walked with him—John Lewis, Dorothy Height, music and book parallel the “Discord” accompany-
Marian Wright Edelman and Julian Bond.” ing the nonviolent protests of 1954 through 1959,
While all those who were inter- the 1960 to 1963 “Crescendo” lead-
viewed shared quintessential pearls ing to the famous March on
about King, Murphy considers the Washington for Jobs and Freedom,
discussion with Height, a leading pio- the “Harmony” desired from com-
neer in the struggle for equality and prehensive legislation for equal
human rights for all people, her big- rights passed between 1964 and
gest privilege. “She is extraordinary,” 1967, and the “Elegy” of 1968 to
Murphy tells The Connection. 1969 resulting from King’s death.
They discussed the movement King always held a dream close
during and since King’s assassination. to his heart: that skin color, ethnic-
“I asked her who is going to pick up ity and religion would not matter,
the mantle. She said, ‘No one, because and all people would be recognized
everyone has to do it.’ ” The terror and triumph of the as equal and live in peace. The civil
In that single answer Height illu- civil rights movement are rights movement strove toward his
minated the fact that the modern civil brought together in Voices. dream, a hope left unfinished. This
rights movement was in fact masses is where the book closes.
of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. “We “My favorite part is actually ‘Symphony of
need to tell the young people,” Height continued. Brotherhood,’ ” raves Murphy about the final seg-
“We need to remind them who opened the doors.” ment, “because that is the part where the movement
Murphy recognized truth in Height’s words, needs to march on and continue.”
truth verified through talks with visitors of all ages Much to Murphy’s credit, the uplifting strength of
filing out of the King Center in Atlanta, Georgia, this American story will continue on in Voices. C
during her team’s research there. She says, “Retirees
remember the double drinking fountains and the
separate entrances.” She also observed children who
knew nothing about those race-based practices and
little about how such segregation came to an end
until they visited the center.
FORTY YEARS have passed since Martin Luther
King Jr. marched for a better America. For Deb
Murphy, the director of publishing at Dalmatian
Press, it seemed the time had arrived for a different
type of tribute to King’s dedication—a dual tribute of
writing and music that captures both the spirit of the
civil rights movement epitomized by King and his
dream for America that has yet to be fully realized.
Voices—Reflections on an American Icon Through
Word and Song is first of all a book of remembrances
by distinguished witnesses to civil rights history and
the impressions of others later touched by King’s
accomplishments. Second, it is a CD featuring a
compilation of performances by the Choral Society
of Washington, recorded between 1989 and 2007.
Voices reopens history in
compelling and easily
making it ideal for personal
or book club reading.
Voices—Reflections on an
American Icon Through Word
and Song is available in most
Costco warehouses in a
charming keepsake box.
Gloria Blakely is a freelance writer/journalist living
in Philadelphia. She has authored or contributed to
eight published books.