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David Copperfield to Donate Rare MLK Recording to Civil Rights Museum

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- Famed illusionist David Copperfield has purchased a recently discovered recording of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., announcing that he intends to donate the recording to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn.

“Audio tapes of Dr. King are extremely rare,” according to collector Keya Morgan, who valued the tape at more than $100,000.

“For every 100 letters of his that are signed, you find maybe one original audio tape,” Morgan added. “It’s very rare. Audio tapes come up once every 20-30 years.”

Copperfield purchased the recording after hearing about it from Morgan, he told ABC News.

“I didn’t want it to be hoarded away,” he said, “but [instead wanted it to be] shared with people.”

“I’m always interested in historical items,” he added, “especially things that are magic-related, things that inspire me, especially.”

“My business is making people dream,” Copperfield said. “Dr. King made people dream of something vastly more important than anything an entertainer has ever done. … Dr. King’s form of dreaming and hope and thinking of things differently is extremely important with all the war and the hate in the world.”

The recording originally belonged to Stephon Tull, who found the reel, labeled “Dr. King interview, Dec. 21, 1960,” when he was cleaning out his father’s attic.

 On the tape, King discusses his view of the civil rights movement.

“I think the movement represents struggle on the highest level, dignity and discipline,” he said. “The thing that has impressed about the movement is the fact that they have followed means that grow out of the highest tradition of non-violence and peaceful message.”

King also spoke about his trip to Africa and the long-term historical importance of the civil rights movement.

“I’m convinced that in the history books written in future years, historians will have to record this movement as one of the greatest epics of our heritage,” he said.

Barbara Andrews, director of education and interpretation at the National Civil Rights Museum, told ABC News in a statement: “The donation of this recording to the museum offers the opportunity to hear from this civil rights giant one more time -- almost as though we are able to connect with him in the present again.  At the time of this recording, the world and the movement were at a crossroads: the teeming war in Vietnam helped to shape the evolving foci of Dr. King’s work.  On the one hand his attention was turned to the matter of economic justice and eradicating poverty while simultaneously pressing to move America’s moral compass toward human rights and away from the war effort on the other."

“This interview serves to humanize Dr. King and allows us to share in the concern and passion of that moment in a way that no written text could do,” the statement continued. “We are extremely grateful to … the Tulls, Dr. Winbush and Mr. Copperfield for choosing posterity over prosperity.”

But for Copperfield, the decision to donate it was obvious.

“Symbolically, it means something more important when people see it somewhere,” he told ABC News. “With magic, I can’t show what I have to the public in a mass. This is the exact opposite. You want people to see the root of what it is. … That’s where it belongs.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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