My public speaking students at Southside Virginia Community College are enjoying “Say it Loud,” an audio documentary produced by American Radio Works. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Lorraine Hansberry, Shirley Chisholm, Stokely Carmichael, Ward Connerly, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Bill Cosby are among the African Americans whose speeches are featured in the program. From the program description:
Public speech making has played a powerful role in the long struggle by African Americans for equal rights. This collection, for the ear and the eye, highlights speeches by an eclectic mix of black leaders. Their impassioned, eloquent words continue to affect the ideas of a nation and the direction of history.
Throughout the semester, we listen to student speeches and speeches by public figures from varying political, academic and celebrity backgrounds. Students are more apt to work on their own public speaking when they understand the potential impact of speaking and see its place in both history and current events.
“Say it Loud” is well-worth a listen. It’s an hour long, but has some natural stopping places so you can easily break it into parts. And it was produced for radio, so you can listen while you’re fixing dinner or doing other chores. In addition to being a great example of the power of public speaking, the program reminds us of the history of the the Civil Rights Movement, including the varying approaches that different leaders and intellectuals advocated.
I learned more about this when I did my own studies of the Civil Rights Movement, leading to my long-ago graduate thesis about the movement in southern Virginia, a documentary screenplay called “What Happened in Danville.” A few decades later, many of my students are surprised and interested to learn details about the Movement they’ve never heard. I’m surprised and interested to find that teaching public speaking leads me back to learning about the Civil Rights Movement yet again.
In first grade, I was in the first integrated class of Berryville Primary School, as nearly as I can figure. Today, I teach a fully integrated class for the Virginia Community College System. I have to look back, to think back, to listen back–to wonder, to remember.