Motown Records relaunches Black Forum with Grammy-winning MLK speech

Black Forum, Martin Luther King Jr., Langston Hughes, Motown Records, Motown Museum

Motown Records on Friday announced it’s re-launching its Black Forum label with Martin Luther Ling, Jr.’s “Why I Oppose The War In Vietnam” speech, followed by spoken word albums by Stokely Carmichael, Langston Hughes and Margaret Danner, and Ossie Davis.

The label imprint was founded by Berry Gordon in 1971. Gordy recorded several of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speeches, including “The Great March to Freedom,” on Gordy Records, another Motown subsidiary. King’s anti-Vietnam-War speech was recorded in April 1967 at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

The relaunch is aimed at “providing a platform to a new generation of writers, thinkers and poets.” The historic albums will be accompanied by new releases. MLK’s speech will be the first release, on Feb. 26.

“As we navigate our way through unprecedented times, racial and social tensions are at a high,” said Ethiopia Habtemariam, president of Motown Records. “We felt an urgent need to reactivate Black Forum in order to provide information alongside inspiration. The label provided a clear-cut reflection of who America was at the time of civil unrest in the ’60s and ’70s. Now, we look to extend and expound on the original principles and purpose of Black Forum.”

The re-launch is a partnership with the Motown Museum in Detroit, which has held a spoken word competition for eight years running that spotlights new spoken word artists.

“The rich heritage of the Black Forum label has long been an important chapter in the continuing story of Motown,” said Motown Museum Chairwoman and CEO Robin Terry.

Five more albums will be reissued throughout 2021:

  • Stokely Carmichael – “Free Huey”
  • Langston Hughes & Margaret Danner – “Writers Of The Revolution”
  • “Guess Who’s Coming Home: Black Fighting Men Recorded Live In Vietnam”
  • Ossie Davis – “Congressional Black Caucus”
  • Imamu Amiri Baraka, Stanley Crouch, The Last Poets and others – “Black Spirts: Festival Of New Black Poets In America”

Black Forum is also planning podcasts, Black community forums, Motown Museum events and digital initiatives.

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