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Examine a Primary Source: MLK's First Television Interview

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  •  Primary Source:  MLK’s First Television Interview


    Watch The New Negro / 1957 MLK Interview on PBS

    to see an updated introduction.

    See more from The Open Mind.


    Archival footage supplied by Internet Archive (at in association with Prelinger Archives

    In this assignment, we’ll explore just how different a primary source can be from a secondary source.  In reading about MLK’s life in an encyclopedia entry, you gained an overview of what he accomplished in his lifetime.  However, you only gained a limited understanding of the kind of person he was.  Only primary source documents can really give you that understanding.

    Attached below is a transcript of Martin Luther King Jr’s very first television interview.  PRINT a copy of the interview and, as you read, use the margin on the right-hand side of the page to paraphrase any important ideas.  Take King’s words, especially, and put them into your own words to make sure you understand them.  You may also watch the full interview in the video on the left.  

    Then, after a thorough reading of the interview, answer these questions in PEA format (the same format we used last semester). Write one PEA paragraph for each question. You'll find additional review of PEA at this video (start at 6:15 for specifics).


    1. What was King’s definition of the “new Negro”?  How was the “new Negro” different from the “Old South” (as explained by Heffner, King, and Waring)?
    2. Why does King feel that the time has come to be “aggressive” about Civil Rights?
    3. From this interview, what kind of person is Martin Luther King?  What makes him unique and how can you tell?
    4. What does King mean when he says, “Well I… when I think of the question of progress in the area of race relations I prefer to be realistic and when I say that I mean I try to look at it not from the pessimistic point of view or the optimistic, but rather from the realistic point of view…”?


    Submit your answers on the next page.