Archibald J. Carey, Jr: A Historical Footnote to King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ Speech

In October 1955 columnist I.F. Stone asserted: “The American Negro needs a Ghandi to lead him, and we need the American Negro to lead us.”1  On August 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., Americans thought they were witnessing a Ghandian black leader in the person of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.  King walked to the platform before a throng of 250,000 participants in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom carrying a prepared speech.  According to King, “I started out reading the speech,” then, “just all of a sudden–the audience response was wonderful that day–and all of a sudden this thing came to me that I have used–I’d used it many times before, that thing about ‘I have a dream’–and I just felt that I wanted to use it here.  I don’t know why, I hadn’t thought about it before the speech.”2

It was easy for King to depart from the prepared text and continue extemporaneously since he had given versions of the speech before: at a mass meeting in Birmingham in early April; in a speech at Detroit’s huge civil rights march and rally in June; and on August 21st in a speech at the National Insurance Association convention in Chicago.  “Although he did not know it,” writes biographer David Garrow, “the speech had been the rhetorical achievement of a lifetime, the clarion call that conveyed the moral power of the movement’s cause to the millions who had watched the live national network coverage.”3  For King biographer Taylor Branch, the speech elevated King to the status of “a new founding father.”4  For Eric Sundquist, it was King’s “Second Emancipation Proclamation.”5  Drew Hansen called it “the oratorical equivalent of the Declaration of Independence,” and “a second Gettysburg Address”6

As the nation commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of King’s celebrated speech, this examination focuses on another speech, the finale of which should be seen as a footnote to the “Let freedom ring” finale of King’s speech.  The footnote was delivered eleven years earlier as the finale of a speech by King’s mentor and friend, Chicago alderman and minister Rev. Archibald J. Carey, Jr. (1908-1981) at the Republican National Convention on July 8, 1952.  King’s 1963 finale was as follows:

This will be the day when all God’s children will sing with new meaning “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, Of thee I sing.  Land where my fathers died!  Land of the Pilgrim’s pride!  From ev’ry mountainside, Let freedom ring!”  And if America is to be a great nation this must come true.  So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.  Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.  Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!  Let freedom ring from the snow capped Rockies of Colorado!  Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!  Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain in Georgia!  Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!  Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.  From every mountainside, let freedom ring.7

          The finale of Carey’s stirring address was:

“We, Negro Americans, sing with all loyal Americans: ‘My country ‘tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty, Of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, Land of the Pilgrim’s pride!  From ev’ry mountainside, Let freedom ring!’ That’s exactly what we mean–from every mountain side, let freedom ring.  Not only from the Green Mountains and White Mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire; not only from the Catskills of New York; but from the Ozarks in Arkansas, from the Stone Mountain in Georgia, from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia–let it ring not only for the minorities in the United States; but for … the disinherited of all the earth…–may the Republican Party, under God, from every mountainside, LET FREEDOM RING!”8

Despite the striking similarity of the two finales, for almost twenty-five years following King’s speech, there was no acknowledgment of their connection.  There was almost no mainstream press account of Carey’s speech in 1952.  Only The Chicago Defender printed the entire text of the under the headline, “Archibald Carey Debunks Demos Before GOP Delegates.”9  The next appearance of the full text was in Roy D. Hill’s out-of-print anthology, Rhetoric of Racial Revolt published in 1964, twelve years after Carey delivered it.10  Although Hill  included King’s speech in his collection, he made no reference to the close match of the two finales of the two speeches.  In correspondence between Hill and Carey, dated nine months after the March on Washington, there is no reference by either to the connection.11  The first identification of Carey’s peroration as the precursor to the finale of King’s speech was made by Keith D. Miller in his exploration of the sources for King’s rhetoric.  And Miller’s source was Roy D. Hill’s book.  In his analysis of the two finales, Miller writes: “Through voice merging Carey harnesses “America the Beautiful”[sic] as an agent not for self-satisfaction but for radical political change, uniting his identity with the patriotic narrative voice of our unofficial national anthem. Largely preoccupied with King’s training in white graduate schools, King scholars ignore Carey. Yet King’s peroration adapts and refines Carey’s visionary proclamation.”12

Long after Miller’s work, archival acknowledgment finally appeared in the Stanford University Martin Luther King Papers Project.13  In the latest acknowledgment by the editor of the King Papers, he writes:

Like many 19th-century orators who often borrowed from one another, King adopted his conclusion from Chicago preacher Archibald Carey’s address at the 1952 Republican convention, who in turn adapted the patriotic song, “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.”… By the time King spoke in St. Louis in 1957, Carey’s refrain had become part of his vast memorized oratorical repertory: “As I heard a great orator say some time ago,” King remarked, “freedom must ring from every mountainside.” Continually improving on Carey’s use of the mountain metaphor, King was ready at the 1963 March to supplement his dream by drawing upon a key element of the nation’s heritage.14

To date there is apparently no indication that either Carey or King made reference by name to the other’s delivery of the “Let freedom ring” passage.  It may well be that, like other ministers from whom King “borrowed,” Carey approached the matter in much the same vein as that articulated by Rev. Joseph Lowery of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the 1990 controversy surrounding the revelation by scholars on the King Papers Project that he plagiarized his dissertation.  “Preachers have an old saying,” said Rev. Lowery in an interview.  “The first time they use somebody else’s work, they give credit. The second time, they say some thinker said it.  The third time they just say it.”15

Although King never gave credit to Carey by name, he did reach the second and third stages of attribution described by Lowery.  In the years before the March on Washington, King included the “Let freedom ring” peroration in speeches delivered on four occasions: in 1956 at the First Annual Institute on Nonviolence and Social Change16; also in 1956 at the Annual Luncheon of the National Committee for Rural Schools17; in January 1957 at the NAACP’s celebration of the ninety-fourth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation18; in April 1957 at a freedom rally convened in St. Louis by area ministers to raise funds for the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA).19  At the NAACP rally, in what editors of the King Papers call an “oblique” acknowledgment, King said he had “heard a great orator say some time ago” that freedom must literally ring from every mountain side.  In the St. Louis speech, he stated: “As I heard a powerful orator say not long ago, that must become literally true. Freedom must ring from every mountain side.”  King makes no such attribution in the published versions of the passage in speeches that appeared later in 1957.20  And in 1963, King just said it, to quote Rev. Lowery.

In any case, at issue here is not how King came by the “Let freedom ring” passage, but how Carey’s authorship remained unacknowledged by King scholars until Keith Miller’s work, and remains relatively unknown by the general public.

Carey’s Background

Until historian Dennis Dickerson published his study of the public theology of Carey and his father,21 both were essentially what David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace call “footnote people” in American history: “American men and women, with unique backgrounds and achievements, who deserve better than to be buried in the footnotes of history and in the pages of specialized biography.”22  Hence, a sketch of his biography is in order before focusing on the fate of his 1952 address.

Carey, the son and grandson of ministers, received his B.A. degree from Lewis Institute in Chicago in 1929, and his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Northwestern University’s Garrett Biblical Institute in 1932.  He earned his law degree in 1935 from Chicago-Kent College of Law, and was admitted to the Illinois bar the following year.  That same year he became a vice president, later president, of the newly established Illinois Federal Savings and Loan Association of Chicago.  He was pastor of Woodlawn AME Church in Chicago from 1930-1949 before moving to Quinn Chapel AME Church, Chicago’s second oldest Protestant church, where he served until 1967.  Following the example of his father, Carey, Sr., who was a powerful advocate and practitioner of ministerial politics, Carey, Jr. expanded Quinn Chapel’s role as a cultural and political cornerstone of Chicago’s black community.23  In 1943, while at Woodlawn, as a practitioner of public theology that blended ministry and politics, he led his church in support of a suit against Northwestern University for refusing to house Negroes in any house or dormitory on its grounds.  During the same year he hosted the first national convention of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), founded in 1942 on the University of Chicago campus by James Farmer and five other students who were pioneers in practicing the Gandhian protest strategy of nonviolent resistance..24  Farmer called him “CORE’s patron saint.”25

Carey was elected alderman of Chicago’s 3rd ward in 1947 and 1951, the only times that predominantly Democratic ward voted Republican in twenty years.26  In the 1947 election, he defeated Democratic candidate Roy Lee Washington, father of the future Mayor Harold Washington.27  In 1950 he was the Republican nominee for the First Congressional District but was defeated by the powerful machine of Democratic Congressman William L. Dawson (1886-1970), the political boss of the black “submachine” within the Cook County Democratic Organization, led by Richard J. Daley.

Although Carey was not a voting member of the Illinois delegation to the 1952 Republican National Convention, he was invited to speak during the morning session of the second day of the convention.  The following year he was selected by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as the number one alternate delegate to the United Nations where he served from 1953 to 1956, under UN Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.  He was a favorite in UN circles and recognized for his contribution to a resolution abolishing genocide and for his debating skills that propelled the General Assembly toward a resolution demanding the evacuation of Chinese troops from Burma.28  At the end of his UN term, Lodge told Carey that “the position of the United States in the world is definitely better for your having served.  Eisenhower was also pleased with his having “reflected great credit on the United States.”29

In 1956, as the cochair of Friends for Ike, Carey engaged in coast-to-coast campaigning for Eisenhower’s reelection.  He was joined by his friend Adam Clayton Powell who organized Independent Democrats for Eisenhower.  Confident that blacks would fare better with Eisenhower as president than his Democratic opponent Stevenson, he produced the pamphlet,  Why Negro Americans Should Vote Republican in 1956, in which he argued that “more has been done by President Eisenhower to widen the borders of freedom for Negroes in America than by any president since Abraham Lincoln struck off the chains of slavery.”30  Eisenhower credited him for the increased votes in Black areas, especially in Chicago, and in 1957, he appointed him as Chair of the President’s Committee on Government Employment Policy, the first Black American to hold the position.31  That same year he took on the Democratic machine again in the aldermanic race and was overwhelmingly defeated by former Olympic sprinter Ralph Metcalfe.  For the next five years he practiced law and taught at John Marshall Law School.  In 1960, he ran for judge of the Superior Court and lost.  He tried again in 1962 for a judgeship in Probate Court, but lost to a Democrat.

In 1964 the Republican Party’s selection of Barry Goldwater as its presidential nominee  caused Carey to leave the party in support of Lyndon Johnson.32  In a July 14, 1964 statement endorsing Johnson’s election, he wrote that “after an agonizing time of meditation, consultation and prayer,” he had concluded that he “could not support a man who is opposed to that in which I believe,” by which he meant the 1964 Civil Rights Bill that Goldwater had voted against on the grounds of its unconstitutionality.  Despite the support of the bill by Republican senators like his close friend Everett Dirksen, and Goldwater’s past support of civil rights, he “found it impossible to make the effort to strengthen the arm of an influential Senator who, regardless of the announced reason, one hundred years after Emancipation, voted against a measure to equalize opportunity in America.”33  Weeks later, he regretfully informed his friend Charles (“Chuck”) Percy, who was campaigning for governor of Illinois, that “supporting the state ticket of Republicans while not supporting the Presidential nominee would result in my strengthening the effort of those who, in turn, will be strengthening the effort of the candidate for President whose effort I do not wish to strengthen.”34

After switching parties Carey had no trouble in his third bid for a judgeship in Cook County, and was elected in 1966 by an overwhelming majority.  After being mandatorily retired in 1978 at age 70, he was recalled in 1980 to help reduce the backlog of cases in the Law Jury Division of the Circuit Court.35

The Carey-King Relationship

Carey and King were acquainted before King emerged as a national leader.  In June 1955, three years after his speech at the Republican convention, Carey spoke at a citizenship rally at the all-black Alabama State College in Montgomery, Alabama sponsored by the local chapter of his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha.  King, who was also a member of the fraternity, delivered the benediction.  Carey’s description of their meeting in a 1966 article gives the impression that his arrival in Montgomery was their first meeting. “When I alighted from the plane a handsome, sober, hatless young man stepped forward and offered his hand,” wrote Carey.  “Calling me by name, he said ‘I am King, Martin Luther King, pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church here, and you are going to be my house guest during your visit here.’  He took me to his home and there I met his charming wife and his father Dr. M.L. King, Sr., the eminent minister of big, vibrant Ebenezer Baptist Church of Atlanta.”36

In a June 7, 1955 letter thanking King for his hospitality, Carey wrote:

I can’t tell you how very much I enjoyed the afternoon and night that I spent with you and your charming wife, Coretta and the distinguished Dr. M.L., Sr., when I came to speak at Alabama State College.  I had no idea, when I approached the campus, that I was going to be in a good, old fashioned “preachers’ meeting”, in addition.  But it was most enjoyable to reminisce and reflect and prognosticate (how’m I doing?) with you and your dad. …Remember, you have a pulpit in Chicago whenever you are coming this way…37

Five months later Rosa Parks, a black seamstress and NAACP activist, refused to surrender her seat when ordered by a local bus driver, and triggered the Montgomery Bus Boycott that catapulted King to national prominence as president of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA).  The relationship between Carey and King grew closer as the boycott progressed.  King requested that Carey chair a committee of religious and civic leaders to inform the Chicago-based National City Lines, Inc., owner of the Montgomery bus company, of the concerns of black Montgomery residents.  Throughout the boycott he raised money and public awareness of the protest in Chicago.  In April 1957, he helped organize an “Hour of Prayer” in Chicago that raised $2,500 for the MIA.  After the Supreme Court ordered the desegregation of Montgomery’s buses, he commended King for taking “upon his shoulders the mantle of tremendous responsibility” and for embodying the demand by blacks for first class citizenship.38

Early in the boycott, Carey also offered King advice in dealing with the FBI.  David Garrow writes that “King knew the FBI still had an active interest in his personal life, and he worried greatly about a public revelation of the Bureau’s embarrassing tapes.  He asked a longtime family friend, Chicago’s Rev. Archibald J. Carey, Jr., to speak with his friends in the FBI hierarchy.  Carey did so, reporting back to King that it would be wise to keep up his public commendations of FBI accomplishments.”39

The two ministers made guest appearances in each other’s pulpits. “When I need help,” Carey wrote, “I can count on Martin Luther King, and when he needs help he can count on me.”40 Of their mutual regard, Dickerson writes: “Carey recognized that the grassroots activism that King helped to channel into the Montgomery Bus Boycott was an effective strategy for improving the condition of blacks, while King respected the insider role of such politically connected clergy as Carey and [Adam Clayton] Powell. …Carey’s attachment to the Kings sustained his role as a major player in civil rights affairs even after the GOP lost the White House in 1960.  At the same time, the younger King hoped to leverage Carey’s connections to persons of significant influence in both political parties to benefit the movement.”41

In one of their reciprocations of podiums and pulpits, writes Dickerson, King invited Carey to address the MIA’s Institute on Non-Violence and Social Change.  King told him that “your presence and participation [would] do much to lend dignity and effectiveness to [the] program of developing leaders for the struggle in the South.” As always, the audience was moved by his powerful oratory.  After the speech, King told him that people “are still talking about the magnificent job you did.”42  In May 1963, in  the wake of the protests in Birmingham and the police violence against demonstrators, Carey accepted an invitation to preach at St. John AME Church in Birmingham, and to see firsthand the development of a major Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) campaign.43

Although as early as the 1940s, Carey had joined Adam Clayton Powell Jr. in support of A. Philip Randolph’s March on Washington Movement, it is unclear whether he attended the 1963 event.  Three days before the march Carey was in Hawaii where he spoke at the historic Kawaiahao Church, a Congregational church founded in 1842 in Honolulu.  He accepted flower leis created by the congregation to be worn by participants in the March, symbolizing the spiritual support of the people of Hawaii.  In his speech, he explained the purpose of the march and, displaying a March on Washington button, presented a detailed account of the planned logistics of the march that only an insider could know.  “It is one of the most monumental, best planned and most dramatic peacetime mobilizations of the human spirit in our Nation’s history,” he told them.  “Whatever precipitated it, the March is but an example or the surging or the human spirit’s yearning for freedom.”44

On July 25, 1966, King spoke at Quinn Chapel during his campaign urging Chicagoans to join the march sponsored by the Coordination Council of Community Organizations (CCCO) in its fight to oust Benjamin C. Willis (the symbol of school segregation) as Superintendent of Schools.45  King also joined Carey at Mayor Richard J. Daley’s second meeting with city clergymen to inform them of the city administration’s efforts to combat slums.  David Garrow notes that King, who had been unable to attend the first meeting, “listened silently as Chicago officials detailed Daley’s antislum efforts” until Carey asked him to share his thoughts with the group”46

Since their first meeting in 1955, the two ministers shared ideas about theology and politics, preaching and protesting, and the problems of pastoral and civic leadership.  Dickerson writes that Carey’s church and civic experience gave great value to the advice and counsel he provided to King.  As a mentor for King, Carey offered him spiritual reflections about brotherhood and peace, and shared with him material from speeches and copies of various talks, including his 1960 World Methodist Conference address delivered in Oslo, Norway in which he discussed how AME activists in the United States drew from Wesleyan theology and praxis in their approach.47  It is possible that Carey gave King a copy of his 1952 speech at some point.

Carey’s Audience

To a great extent the contrasting fates of the King and Carey speeches were determined by the role of the media in transmitting their messages, and the audiences that received them and gave meaning to them.  As public ministers both Carey and King used their speeches to challenge the ideologies that legitimated racial injustice by appealing to “common sense” and personalizing the American heritage.  They understood that racism framed as common sense must ultimately be challenged by an opposing common sense.  What William Robert Miller concluded about the vision portrayed in King’s speech was also true of Carey’s: “Right out of elementary school civics, the lesson, in this context, formed an ironic exegesis of our democratic platitudes.”48  As the hundreds of letters from the radio and television audience of Carey’s speech show, his appeal to the American heritage was successful.  They reinforced his belief that black advancement could be facilitated through the blend of religious and civic involvement in the pulpit and the public square.  One such endorsement came from the President of the Chicago Tuskegee Institute Alumni Club:

There are not enough superlatives in the English language to describe the force and weight of your speech…. You never fail us.  Today your message exceeded our greatest expectations and you surpassed yourself taking into consideration all of your fine public appearances which it been our privilege to witness.  Only a man of God and a man of the people could have spoken in such stirring tones, delivered the lecture and preached the sermon which was yours today.  Let us hope and pray that those responsible for our government, irrespective of partisan politics, will take heed for the good of our country and the universe.49

In various expressions, his audience confirmed that he had said the right thing at the right time.  An influential AME pastor heard in Carey’s address the echo of Patrick Henry’s declaration, “Give me liberty or give me death.”  Another commentator had not heard “a more profound statement of American Democratic principles”  Other AME ministers commended Carey’s exemplification of public theology, and some heard in his words “the unseen spirit”of  Archibald Carey, Sr. “blazed in glory as you spoke.” One New York preacher described the speech as “the greatest public utterance since the Gettysburg address” and asked Carey, “What can be done to place your name in nomination for the vice presidency?” A listener in Stockton, California wrote that “never have I heard anyone speak with greater emphasis or more sincere delivery than your address… It was without question, the finest speech it has ever been my good fortune to hear….”  A couple in Warner Springs, California said that “never have we both been so moved by ANY speaker.”

The president of Ever Ready Label Corporation, Belleville, New Jersey, wrote that he was “sufficiently impressed to write the New York Times, because I did not see the full text reported. … I have mentioned that speech to many of my friends as being an outstanding address.”  The head of the El Paso, Texas chapter of the NAACP noted that the speech had “left no doubt in the minds of the Republicans, the Democrats, the Americans, [and] the nations of the world as to what the American Negro wants.”

Preceding his “let freedom ring” passage, Carey addressed the question often heard at that time: “What does the Negro-American want?”  The answer, he said, was,

Nothing special.  Just what everybody else wants, nothing more–nothing less… All we want is the right to live and work and play, to vote and to be promoted, to fight for our country and hope to be President, like everyone else.  More than that we do not ask, but with less than that we shall never be content.

No doubt these words impressed the future U.S. senator Barry Goldwater who was a  Phoenix city councilman at the time. “I just finished listening to your speech,” wrote Goldwater, “and I feel it is one of the most forceful offered today.  You as a negro did a lot for your people today in being forthright in your presentation of your problems. … I hope to have the pleasure sometime in the future of meeting you.” (Carey had said, “We don’t want any special favors to put us ahead, or special agreements to hold us back.”  Yet, as noted, twelve years later, it was Senator Goldwater’s vote against provisions in the Civil Rights Bill he believed unconstitutionally favored blacks at the expense of property rights that led Carey to leave the Republican Party.)

King’s Audience

Unlike the audience of delegates and guests who sat for Carey’s speech, King’s audience included not only the 250,000 or more demonstrators gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial; millions also saw and heard the speech on radio and television.  When he stepped to the podium, ABC and NBC had cut away from afternoon soap operas to join the continuous live coverage by CBS, without the commercial interruptions in the coverage of national party conventions.  In the audience was a giant press corps, many politicians, entertainers and President John F. Kennedy.  “He’s damn good,” remarked the President to his aides.  Later when Kennedy met the leaders of the March in the Cabinet Room, he greeted King with “I have a dream.”50

Major Northern papers and periodicals quoted King’s speech extensively and many characterized it as “a masterpiece.”  Taylor Branch writes that “Not all white newspapers were attuned at first to the depth of the impression King had made.  The Washington Post, for example, highlighted [A. Philip] Randolph’s speech and made no mention of King’s.  By contrast, The New York Times featured a story headlined, “‘I Have a Dream …’ Peroration by Dr. King Sums Up a Day the Capital Will Remember,” by James Reston, on a front page containing no fewer than five different stories on the march, arranged in a collage around two large crowd photographs.  It was perhaps the zenith of the Times’s pioneer devotion to the civil rights movement.  Negro press coverage amounted to a proud rhapsody.  Even the Atlanta Daily World announced that the rally ‘forever’ changed racial perceptions, and the paper relaxed its rules against picturing King on the front page (though only in a group shot with President Kennedy).  Motown Records released an album within weeks, followed swiftly by bootleg recordings of ‘I Have a Dream’ by Mr. Maestro Records and Twentieth Century-Fox Records.”51

In Taylor Branch’s view, “the ‘Dream’ sequence stamped King’s public identity,” and “the emotional command of his oratory gave King authority to reinterpret the core institutions of democratic justice.  More than his words, the timbre of his voice projected him across the racial divide and planted him as a new founding father.  It was a fitting joke on the races that he achieved such statesmanship by setting aside his lofty text to let loose and jam, as he did regularly from two hundred podiums a year.”52

One cannot help but wonder what his “jamming” might have consisted of had there been no “America” by Reverend Samuel Francis Smith, and no “Let freedom ring”oratory by  Archibald  Carey.  On the other hand, would we know of Carey’s allegorical exhortation if King had not appropriated it?

Institutional Cultural Carriers

As a cultural object Carey’s speech was unable to stand on its own and although he was remembered for his ministerial activities on behalf of black advancement, he lacked the platform of a national movement that King had.  Despite his energetic and committed involvement, ultimately he was but what Dickerson calls a “background benefactor” to King’s movement, not a starring player.  As the obituaries published upon his death in 1981 indicate, his sustained visibility was essentially that of an influential local clergyman and judge, and notable member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.  Curiously, The Chicago Defender’s obituary quoted an excerpt of the 1952 speech but omitted any reference to the fact that it was delivered at the Republican Convention.53The Chicago Tribune’s obituary made no reference to the speech.

If we look to Carey’s organizational affiliations as carriers of his work and words, we find them lacking in this cultural function.  For instance, on the website for Carey’s church, Quinn Chapel AME, founded in 1844, with the exception of its first female pastor, there is no mention of its past pastors.  Instead, the church presents a brief narrative of its history that is portrayed in terms of famous people who have spoken from its pulpit and its role as a site in motion pictures.54  In contrast, King’s cultural visibility has been maintained not only by his family and the King Center, but also by the churches where he served as pastor.  Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, founded in 1877, changed its name to Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, in honor of its twentieth pastor, and spotlights King on its website.  So, too does the website of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, founded in 1886, where  King Sr. and Jr. served as pastors.

Surely, Carey’s contribution to the establishment of the  Congress for Racial Equality (CORE) should warrant mention in the organization’s history.  Yet in its online history nothing is said about its “patron saint.”  For a record of Carey’s role one has to read Farmer’s autobiography to learn that as CORE was being formed, When [it] needed money above that which could be raised by passing the hat at membership meetings,[red-haired, freckled, dynamic] Arch would take up a collection in his church.  He also gave us office space in the basement of his church [Woodlawn] and use of a mimeograph machine.  It was in that church that [we] replied to letters …  requesting information about starting Committees for Racial Equality in their cities.”55

One might expect to find such influential Chicagoans as Carey and his father among the notable blacks in Illinois featured in the Illinois Historic Preservation Association’s Generations of Pride, a commemorative publication for use in Illinois schools.56  But they are missing, as their importance to Chicago history was apparently not deemed as worthy of note as stars of popular culture Oprah Winfrey and Sam Cooke.  Neither is there an entry for Carey in Henry Louis Gates’ highly praised biographical encyclopedia, African American Lives.57

Carey also lacks visibility in the institutional memory of the Republican Party.  Despite his defection to the Democratic party in 1964, one might expect the National Black Republican Association (NBRA) or the National GOP to acknowledge his role in the Party’s history.  However, neither organization mentions Carey on its web site.  His connection with the Republican Party is hidden away in library copies of the bound Proceedings of the 1952 Republican Convention, and archival sources such as the papers of presidents Eisenhower and Nixon.  Although NBRA features famous black Republicans like educator Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955) who was a member of President Franklin Roosevelt’s “black cabinet,” Carey’s active support of the Eisenhower-Nixon presidential campaign and his role in the Eisenhower administration is missing.  Instead NBRA’s site includes a controversial video of King’s niece asserting that King was a Republican, and  goes to great length to present its celebration of King.  It features both the text and video of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and a weblink to President Ronald Reagan’s remarks on signing the 1983 bill that made King’s birthday a National Holiday.58  The merging of King’s charismatic image, the symbolism of his martyrdom and the civil rights movement into a new Federal holiday to mark King’s birth assured the annual recitation of what a Wall Street Journal editorial called “a message that few who heard it will ever forget–‘I have a dream.’”59  But, apparently, as far as the GOP and the NBRA are concerned, Archibald Carey Jr. does not merit recognition.

The Media 

King’s speech was delivered when television had created huge, widespread, and undifferentiated audiences that resulted from its universal access and the minimal skills or effort required to decode the meaning of televised communication.60  Increasingly television was the primary means by which Americans received their news.  In his study of the impact of television on the civil rights movement and its opponents, William Thomas notes that in preparation for televised coverage, “Over five hundred cameramen, technicians, and correspondents from the major networks were set to cover the event.  More cameras would be set up than had filmed the last Presidential inauguration. One camera was positioned high in the Washington Monument, to give dramatic vistas of the marchers.”61.

Carey’s speech generated no such media interest.  It was delivered when print communication had not yet been superseded by electronic communications, and audiences were more segmented by class, ethnicity, religion, gender, region and lifestyle.  The most noticeable area of audience differentiation was the racial divide.  The press, television, entertainment and sports had not yet overwhelmed superstitions and taboos that attend racial prejudice.  As a rule, blacks were largely absent from television and mainstream radio, and appeared in motion pictures primarily in servant roles.  They had little voice in majority newspapers, and were featured in local dailies only when they were perceived to be a threat to the social order.

As late as the 1970s, Eustace Gay, editor of the Philadelphia Tribune, the nation’s oldest black newspaper (1884), said: “Still today, unless a Negro is an exception, an achiever, he is not reported about in the white newspaper.”  Charles Loeb, managing editor of the Cleveland Call and Post, another leading black newspaper, said, “The white mass media fails to portray the Negro in America as a social being.  The Negro is a one line statistic at birth and a one line statistic at death.  He hardly ever appears in between unless he commits a crime or achieve an unusual event.”62

Although a black person addressing a national party convention was an unusual event,  coverage of Carey’s speech was limited primarily to local media.  The Chicago Daily Tribune printed several paragraphs of the address, but not the “Let freedom ring” finale.63  The Chicago Sun-Times carried no news of Carey’s appearance at the convention.  The New York Times buried an excerpt of the speech in its multi-page coverage of the politics of the convention.64  None of the national news weekly magazines saw fit to feature Carey in their convention coverage.

Washington Star columnist Lowell Mellett, who watched Carey’s speech on television, compared it with that of General Douglas MacArthur’s the night before, and found the latter lacking: “With all respect to Gen. MacArthur, Mr. Carey was making the most eloquent speech, by any standard of oratory, thus far heard.  The alderman can talk.”  Mellett approvingly reported the “Let freedom ring” finale of Carey’s speech, and ended his column expressing disappointment that a kitchen appliance commercial featuring Betty White kept him from hearing and seeing the crowd’s response to the speech.65

The Chicago Defender mentioned the speech in several editions.  As noted, the Defender was the only newspaper that published the entire text of Carey’s speech.  In one report it characterized the “ringing speech” as “an eloquent plea for the stamping out of racial discrimination so that the Negro American citizen may get no less or more of anything than other citizens of the nation.”66   In another edition, the paper noted that although  Carey’s convention hall audience was only a few delegates and guests they “gave him all they had in cheers.”  Its July 19, 1952 editorial praised Carey’s speech, but criticized the Republican Party’s civil rights plank for failing to meet the challenge to the party represented in Carey’s speech.  With the exception of Carey’s participation, wrote the Defender, “For the most part Negro delegates added little stature to the procedings(sic).”  Carey “brought dignity, eloquence, and good sense to the convention when he stood before the party in the massive International Amphitheater and made a stirring plea for action on civil rights. ..We deeply regret that the Republican national convention ignored Carey’s eloquent challenge.  It chose instead to climb aboard a platform outstanding for the weakness of its civil rights plank.  This may well have been the greatest mistake made at the 1952 Republican national convention.”67

As the editorial illustrates, while King’s speech was constructed by the press as a call to national redemption, Carey’s was constructed as a rebuke to the Republican Party.  In fact, in attacking segregation as a violation of the American dream, and exhorting the nation to match its practice with its ideals, both men saw the destiny of blacks in terms of joining the myth of American destiny and national consensus.  Both speeches were versions of the American jeremiad which, as Sacvan Bercovitch describes it, is grounded in “the prophetic history of a country that, despite its arbitrary territorial limits, could read its destiny in its landscape, and a population that, despite its bewildering mixture of race and creed, could believe in something called an American mission, and could invest that patent fiction with all the emotional, spiritual, and intellectual appeal of a religious quest.68  Both invested the symbol of America with  attributes of the sacred that resonated with their respective audiences separated by over a decade.

As Bercovitch observes, “Of all symbols of identity, only America has united nationality and universality, civic and spiritual selfhood, secular and redemptive history, the country’s past and paradise to be, in a synthetic ideal.”69  Despite their different fates, the Carey and King speeches succeeded in evoking “America” to their fellow Americans in whom lament and celebration necessarily coexist..

Consequences of King Historiography

The negligence of biographers to establish the intellectual linkage between Carey and King reflects their failure to heed a cautionary statement by Harvard sociologist Charles V. Willie, one of King’s Morehouse classmates: “By idolizing those whom we honor, we do a disservice both to them and to ourselves.  By exalting the accomplishments of Martin Luther King, Jr., into a legendary tale that is annually told, we fail to recognize his humanity–his personal and public struggles–that are similar to yours and mine.  By idolizing those whom we honor, we fail to realize that we could go and do likewise.”70

Historian Oscar Handlin made a similar argument in his analysis of the methodology of biography.  Handlin argued that too often life and letters biographies that “use the career of an individual as the framework within which to depict a whole era,” do so without moving away from the materials the subject himself left. Focusing on early twentieth century biographers, Handlin observed that  “Writing out of a collection of personal papers, the biographer subtly acquired the point of view of his subject.  Seeing all matters as they appeared to the central character, the author tended to become advocate and defender.  The long biographies almost inevitably were partisan, in the sense that they took the side of the men they treated.”71

In making King the central character of events in which he participated, or which he observed, biographers have created a giant whose shadow obscures the civil rights contributions of men like Archibald Carey.  Idolizing King is not only a disservice to his life; doing so also diminishes the civil rights advocacy of hundreds of civic-minded ministers and reformers like Archibald Carey who came before him whom Richard Bardolph called “the vanguard.”

Keith Miller’s study of King’s rhetoric and sermonic argument does not idolize the man; instead Miller permits readers to comprehend that King was less an originator than a synthesizer and that his contribution was as transmitter of culture rather than as originator.  This is not to deny King’s intellectual creativity, but to identify his role in the maintenance of the culture of American public discourse.  As Miller points out, when King created original material his sermons were flat and uninspiring.  What was creative about his work was an unprecedented synthesis of the best of black and white oratory, despite the fact that its components were plagiarized.  “Though we usually make the false equation between creativity and complete originality, King never did,” Miller writes.  “Like folk preachers who preceded him, he expertly blended others’ voices with his own; in his public discourse no matter how much he borrowed, he invariably sounded exactly like himself. And he seemed–and was–absolutely sincere.”72

Why does it matter that we know the origins of King’s text?  It matters because truth in history matters, intellectual honesty and integrity matter.  Miller points out that King did not take seriously academic rules concerning intellectual property, and “adhered instead to folk preachers’ assumptions that language is always shared and never owned.”  Until the publication of the King Papers and Dickerson’s study of the ministries of the Careys,  King’s failure to acknowledge Carey by name as the source of the finale his speech, and the failure of King scholars to investigate or make known the origins of King’s words obliterated Carey’s role in the civil rights movement and by extension, the function of black Republicans in prodding white political leaders toward greater receptivity to racial equality.  Knowing that Carey had put forth the celebration of freedom in exactly the same words eleven years before is to have a sense of the continuity of those sentiments, to have yet more evidence that the Americanness of Negro Americans is old and not skin deep.  Such awareness also corrects the cultural distortion of allowing the impulse to lionize to trump the obligation to remember with accuracy.


1. I.F. Stone, The Haunted Fifties, New York, 1963, 109.  Quoted in Robert Frederick Burk, The Eisenhower Administration and Black Civil Rights, Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1984, 155.

2. David J. Garrow, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, New York: William Morrow, 1986, 283.

3. Garrow, 284. For my interpretation of King’s speech, see: Anne Wortham, “Martin Luther King’s Flawed Dream,” The World and I, June 1998, 66-71.

4. Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63, New York: Simon & Schuster: 1988, 887.

5. Eric J. Sundquist, King’s Dream, Yale University Press, 2009.

6. Drew Hansen, The Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Speech that Inspired a Nation,

New York: HarperCollins, 2009.

7. See: “Address at March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,” 28 August 1963, Washington, D.C.  The lyrics of the national hymn, “America” were written in 1832 by Samuel Francis Smith (1808-1895), an American Baptist clergyman and poet, while a student at Andover Theological Seminary.

8. Archibald James Carey, Jr. Collection, Chicago Historical Society: Box 12, Folder 81.  Hereafter, AJC-CHS.  Reprinted in Roy D. Hill, ed., Rhetoric of Racial Revolt, Denver, CO: Golden Bell Press, 1964, 149-154.  For a digital copy of the entire speech see: “Archibald J. Carey’s address at the 25th Republican National Convention in Chicago, Illinois in 1952.”  The original published version appears in “Address by Honorable Archibald J. Carey, Jr., Member of the Chicago City Council.” Republican National Committee, George Luzerne Hart, ed., Official Report of the Proceedings of the Twenty-fifth Republican National Convention, Held in Chicago, Illinois, July 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11, 1952: Resulting in the Nomination of Dwight D. Eisenhower, of New York, for President and the Nomination of Richard M. Nixon, for Vice President, Judd & Detweiler, 1952, 94-97.

9. The Chicago Defender, July 12, 1952, 31.

10. Hill, Rhetoric of Racial Revolt.

11. Hill to Carey, June 10, 15, July 17, 1964; Carey to Hill, June 12, 1964. AJC-CHS, Box 48, Folder 339.

12. Keith D. Miller, “Voice Merging and Self-Making: The Epistemology of ‘I Have a Dream,’” Rhetoric Society Quarterly,19 (Winter, 1989), 23-31.  Miller mistakenly identifies “America” as Katherine Bates’ poem, “American the Beautiful.”  See also: Keith D. Miller, Voice of Deliverance: The Language of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Its Sources, New York: Free Press, 1992, 146-147. For  Miller’s response to negative reviews of his book see: Keith D. Miller, “Keith D. Miller Responds,” College English, 49 (Apr., 1987), 478-480.  The recognition of Carey as the source of King’s finale was unquestioned by the mid-1990s.  See the reference in Robert James Branham, “Of Thee I  Sing”: Contesting “America,” American Quarterly, Vol. 48, No. 4 (Dec., 1996), 623-652.

13. Clayborne Carson, Ralph E. Luker, Penny A. Russell, eds., The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr.: Birth of a New Age : December 1955-December 1956 Vol. III, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.  See “Carey, Archibald J., Jr. (1908-1981),” at

14. Clayborne Carson, “King, Obama, and the Great American Dialogue,”American Heritage, Spring 2009, 59:1.  For what appears be general acceptance of the connection of the two finales, see:

Tom Dyja, The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream, Penguin Press HC, 2013.…/07/…/51326

15. Quoted in Anthony De Palma, “Plagiarism Seen by Scholars in King’s Ph.D. Dissertation,” The New York Times, November 10, 1990.

16. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Facing the Challenge of a New Age,” Address Delivered at the First Annual Institute on Nonviolence and Social Change, December 3, 1956. Papers 3:462-463.

17. King, “Desegregation and the Future,”Address Delivered at the Annual Luncheon of the National Committee for Rural Schools, December 15, 1956, New York. Papers, 3:478-479.

18. King, “Facing the Challenge of the new Age,” Address Delivered at NAACP Emancipation Day Rally, January 1, 1957, Papers 4: 88-89.

19. King, “A Realistic Look at the Question of Progress in the Area of Race Relations,” Address Delivered at St. Louis Freedom Rally, April 10,1957. Papers, 178-179.

20. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Facing the Challenge of a New Age,” National Baptist Voice, (March 1957),12-13; “Facing the Challenge of a New Age,” Phylon, 18 (April 1957): 25-34.

21. Dennis C. Dickerson, African American Preachers and Politics: The Careys of Chicago, Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2010.

22. David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace, The People’s Almanac, Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, 1975, 85.

23.  Carey, Sr., known for his great oratorical powers, was instrumental in getting out the vote that won William Hale “Big Bill, the Builder” Thompson the mayor’s seat in 1915.  For more on Carey, Sr. see Travis, 58.  Harold F. Gosnell, Negro Politicians: The Rise of Negro Politics in Chicago, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967, 98. Allan H. Spear, Black Chicago: The Making of a Negro Ghetto, 1890-1920, Chicago: University of Chicago, 1967.  Dennis C. Dickerson, African American Preachers and Politics.

24. Dempsey J. Travis, An Autobiography of Black Politics, Chicago: Urban Research Press, 1987, 304-305.

25. James Farmer, Lay Bear the Heart: An Autobiography of the Civil Rights Movement, New York: Arbor House, 1985, 109.

26.  William J. Grimshaw, Bitter Fruit: Black Politics and the Chicago Machine, 1931-1991

University of Chicago Press, 1995, 65.  Letter from Carey to Richard Nixon, July 14, 1952, AJC-CHS: Box 12, Folder 83.

27. Travis,  An Autobiography of Black Politics, 197.

28. Jay Jackson, “Lawyer, Minister, Judge,”The Chicago Defender, April 22, 1981.

29. Dickerson, African American Preachers and Politics, 133.

30.  Carey, Why Negro Americans Should Vote Republican in 1956, Carey Papers, Box 29, Folder 198. Quoted in Dickerson, 149.

31.  As chairman of the President’s Employment Policy Committee and an alternate delegate to the United Nations, Archibald Carey was among several notable “firsts” of blacks holding positions in a presidential administration: Lois Lippman, a member of the campaign secretarial staff, became the first black secretary to work in the White House office; E. Frederic Morrow, the first black administrative officer to serve on a presidential staff as Administrative Officer for Special Projects; attorney and law professor Scovel Richardson was appointed chairman of the United States Parole Board and served as a Judge of the United States Customs Court; Cora M. Brown, associate general counsel in the Post Office Department; and attorney J. Ernest Wilkins, Sr. appointed Assistant Secretary of Labor for International Labor Affairs  in 1953, became the first black to sit in at cabinet meetings, representing his department whenever Secretary James Mitchell was absent.

32.  Goldwater had voted for the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960, and supported nine of the eleven provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  However, because he considered two provisions of the 1964 bill unconstitutional he felt compelled to vote against it, and this act of conscience made him an anathema to King and the civil rights movement.

33. Archibald J. Carey, Jr., Untitled Statement, July 14, 1964. AJC Papers-CHS, Box 48, Folder 339.

34. Carey, Jr., To Charles H. Percy, July 31, 1964. AJC-CHS, Box 48, Folder 339.

35. “Friends Mourn Archibald Carey,” The Chicago Defender, April 22, 1981, 3.

36. Quoted in Jay Jackson,The Chicago Defender, April 22, 1981.

37. Martin Luther King Papers, Mugar Library, Boston University: Box 117.  Reprinted in  Martin Luther King Jr. Papers, Vols. 2-3., 1992. 560.

38. Quoted in Dickerson, 170.

39. Carey to King, 12/11/64, KP. King-Carey Correspondence in KC BU, and Garrow, Bearing the Cross, 425, 454. Cited in Miller, fn.9, 242.

40. Dickerson, 169.

41. Quoted in Dickerson, 172.

42. Dickerson, 172.

43. Dickerson, 172.

44. “Statement by Archibald J. Carey, Jr. of Chicago on Sunday, August 25, 1963 at the airport in Honolulu…,” AJC-CHS, Box 47, Folder 331.

45. Travis, An Autobiography of Black Politics, 339.

46. Garrow, Bearing the Cross, 467.

47. Archibald J. Carey, Jr., “The Negro Methodist Churches in America,” 10th World Methodist Conference, Oslo, Norway, August 18, 1961. Proceedings of the Tenth World Methodist Conference; Oslo, Norway, 1961, Perkins, E. Benson and Elmer T. Clark, eds., London: The Epworth Press, 1961.

48. William Robert Miller, Martin Luther King, Jr.: His Life, Martyrdom and Meaning for the World, New York: Weybright and Talley, 1968, 166.

49. For this and the quoted correspondence below, see AJC-CHS: Box 12, Folders 12,13.

50. Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters, 883.

51. Branch, Parting the Waters, 886.

52. Branch, Parting the Waters, 887.

53. The Chicago Defender, April 22, 1981.

54.  Speeches from Quinn’s pulpit have been delivered by Presidents William B. McKinley and William Howard Taft, educators George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington, poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar and preachers Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr., Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., as well as Illinois politicians, including Senator Barack Obama. See

55. Farmer, Lay Bear the Heart, 109. See:

56. Generations of Pride: Native Sons & Daughters, Commemorating African American Life in Illinois, Illinois Historic Preservation Association, 1996.

57. Henry Louis Gates and  Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, eds., African American Lives, New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

58. See

59. “A Martyr’s Holiday,” Wall Street Journal,January 20, 1986.

60. Wendy Griswold, Cultures and Societies in a Changing World, Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press,1994,145-146.

61. William G. Thomas III, “Television News and the Civil Rights Struggle: The Views in Virginia and Mississippi,” Southern Spaces, November 3, 2004.

Television News and the Civil Rights Struggle: The Views in Virginia and Mississippi

62. Henry LaBrie III, ed., Perspectives of the Black Press: 1974, Kennebunkport, ME: Mercer House Press, 1974, 128, 131.

63. The Chicago Daily Tribune, July 9,1952,5.

64. The New York Times, July 9, 1952,12.

65. Lowell Mellett, “Anyhow It Was Very Exciting,” Washington Star, July 10, 1952.

66. The Chicago Defender, July 12, 1952,p.2.

67. “Our Opinions: The GOP Convention,” The Chicago Defender, July 19, 1952, p. 10.  See also Albert Barnett, “As Republicans Take Final Bow Democrats Move into Chicago,” The Chicago Defender, July 19, 1952, p.10. “National Grapevine: Men of Little Faith,” Chicago Defender, July 19, 1952.

68. Sacvan Bercovitch, The American Jeremiad, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978, 11.

69. Bercovitch, 176.

70. Charles V. Willie, “Martin Luther King, Jr.: His World Mission for Peace,” Address delivered 1/17/82. Quoted in Garrow, Bearing the Cross, 625.

71. Oscar Handlin, Truth in History, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Pres, 1979, 268.

72. Miller, Voice of Deliverance.