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Spotlights

There are nearly a million documents associated with the life of Martin Luther King Jr. These pages will present a more dynamic view than is often seen of Dr. King’s life and times. The documents reveal the scholar, the father, and the pastor. Through these papers we see the United States of America at one of its most vulnerable, most honest and perhaps most human moments in history. There are letters bearing the official marks of royalty and the equally regal compositions of children. You will see speeches, telegrams, scribbled notes, patient admonitions and urgent pleas. This spotlight shows you a glimpse of the remarkable history within this collection.

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Letter from Josephine Baker to MLK

Tuesday, November 26, 1963
New York, NY, New York (NY), FRANCE, Atlanta, GA

Josephine Baker offers support and encouragement to Dr. King in the civil rights campaign and asserts "without unity there cannot be a solid victory."

Letter to MLK Requesting Aid

Saturday, September 9, 1967
Chicago, IL, Illinois (IL)

In this plea to Dr. King, Mrs. Venis Whitten asks for assistance with obtaining adequate medical care and welfare, which would tremendously improve the livelihood of herself and her two grandchildren.

The Ben Bella Conversation

ALGERIA, CUBA, Montgomery, AL, Alabama (AL), Albany, GA, Georgia (GA), Mississippi (MS), New York (NY), New York, NY

Dr. King summarizes his recent two-hour meeting with Premier Ahmed Ben Bella of the newly-formed Algerian Republic. He mentions that Ben Bella was intimately familiar with the details of the civil rights movement and repeatedly said or inferred that “we are brothers.” King states that “the battle of the Algerians against colonialism and the battle of the Negro against segregation is a common struggle.” There are international implications for the US if it doesn’t solve its human rights problem: the nation will become a second-rate power in the world.

Who They are and Why They Struck

South Carolina (SC)

This article stresses the unfair treatment of twenty-two Claussen Bakery workers. This article also addresses why the workers went on strike.

An Interview With MLK

Atlanta, GA, Montgomery, AL, New York (NY), Birmingham, AL, Boston, MA

A young student from Towns Elementary School in Atlanta interviews Dr. King for a class assignment. The student asks important questions relating to Dr. King's family background, career in ministry and his influence in the civil rights movement. When asked about being the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. King responds by saying, "It is more of a tribute to the thousands of gallant people who have participated in the struggle for equality, and who have done it in a peaceful, courageous manner."

Proposal for Preventing Denial of the Right to Vote

Thursday, October 29, 1964
Washington, D.C., Mississippi (MS), Alabama (AL), South Carolina (SC)

William L. Higgs proposes that the Democratic Caucus in the US Senate adopt a resolution that no Democratic Senator shall become chairman of a Senate Standing Committee if his seat was won in an election where there was substantial denial of the right to vote based on race. In Mississippi only 6% of eligible Negroes are registered to vote, yet US Senator James Eastland chairs the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee that considers legislation regarding the right to vote and also the appointment of judges charged with enforcing those laws.

Draft of SCLC 1964 Annual Report

Atlanta, GA, Washington, D.C.

This is a draft of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference 1964 Annual Report. The document outlines developments that occurred in pursuits such as voter registration and Operation Breadbasket. The piece concludes with commentary on the future of the organization, specifically "deeper involvement in political action."

Letter from Benjamin Mays to MLK

Friday, November 29, 1963
Atlanta, GA

Dr. Benjamin E. Mays writes to Dr. King shortly after President Kennedy's assassination to urge him to take precautions.

Excerpt from The Drum Major Instinct

This passage quotes one of Dr. King's acclaimed sermons delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. He defines the desire to lead as "the Drum Major instinct." Seeing himself as a Drum Major for justice, peace, and righteousness, Dr. King posits what should be said at his funeral.

The Other America

Sunday, March 10, 1968
VIETNAM

Dr. King delivered this speech, "The Other America," for the Local 1199 Salute to Freedom program. The speech emphasized the need to address poverty, the Vietnam War, and race relations in America.

MLK Public Statement on the Poor People's Campaign

Monday, December 4, 1967
Atlanta, GA, Georgia (GA), Washington, D.C., UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Mississippi (MS), Selma, AL, Alabama (AL), Birmingham, AL

Dr. King announces several initiatives of the SCLC. He explains that due to severe displays of discrimination the SCLC and other organizations will continue the non-violent movement with a demonstration in Washington, D.C. Dr. King further paints the picture of inequality among the races by providing several illustrations of discrimination.

Letter from Jackie Robinson to MLK

Tuesday, October 9, 1962
New York (NY)

Jackie Robinson writes Dr. King to accept a position of responsibility with the SCLC.

People In Action: Birmingham, U.S.A.

Birmingham, AL, Johannesburg, South Africa, New York, NY

In this first of a two-part article for the New York Amsterdam News, Dr. King writes about the circumstances surrounding SCLC’s decision to develop Project C, a campaign confronting racial injustice in Birmingham. Three factors led to the decision. First, the city was the home of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, SCLC’s strongest affiliate. Second, Birmingham represented the hard-core segregationist South. And third, the South’s largest industrial center was suffering economically from the loss of vital industry and its poor image on race relations.

Letter from Edward Kennedy to MLK

Thursday, August 18, 1966
Georgia (GA), Atlanta, GA, Washington, D.C.

Edward Kennedy thanks Dr. and Mrs. King for their hospitality during the Annual Convention of the SCLC.

Norwegian Peace Initiative

Friday, January 6, 1967
Oslo, Norway, NORWAY, VIETNAM, Washington, D.C.

Five Norwegians concerned about the Vietnam conflict propose that winners of the Nobel Peace Prize form a negotiating delegation to visit the US and Hanoi governments.

President Kennedy's Record

Friday, February 9, 1962
New York (NY), New York, NY, Washington, D.C.

In this February 1962 column for the New York Amsterdam News, Dr. King acknowledges President Kennedy's appointment of Negroes and executive order ending employment discrimination. But he calls the President “cautious and defensive” in providing strong leadership in civil rights and criticizes him for not ordering an end to discrimination in federally-assisted housing.

Letter from MLK to Coretta Scott King

Saturday, October 1, 1960
Atlanta, GA, Georgia (GA)

In an intimate letter to Mrs. King, Dr. King informs her of his recent arrival to the State Prison in Reidsville, Georgia. He urges her "to be strong in faith" as she is also pregnant with their third child at the time. He expresses his hope for a family visit that coming Sunday, and his desire to remain intellectually engaged during his four-month sentence.

Response to Reasons Why African Americans Should Boycott Whitey's Olympics

Wednesday, February 28, 1968
LIBERIA, Chicago, IL

The writer responds to an article in The Post on why African Americans should boycott the Olympics. He believes that Negroes should return to Africa or form their own community in the US separate from whites. God did not intend whites and Negroes to live together, the author maintains, or would have made them the same color. Negroes should take responsibility for their own condition rather than blaming whites. test

A Tough Mind and A Tender Heart

Sunday, August 30, 1959
Montgomery, AL, Alabama (AL)

An early foreshadowing of his nonviolent philosophy, Dr. King advises Negroes of a particular course of action they should adhere to in order to properly equip themselves to combat racial injustice. Seeking to avoid both complacency and hostility, he challenges those who desire self-satisfaction, as well as those who seek to pacify their oppressors, by proposing the idea of one having both a tough mind and a tender heart.

America's Chief Moral Dilemma

Wednesday, May 10, 1967
CONGO / ZAIRE, SOUTH AFRICA, BELGIUM, Montgomery, AL, Selma, AL, MEXICO, PUERTO RICO, VIETNAM, SOUTH KOREA, TAIWAN, THAILAND, Chicago, IL, CHINA, RUSSIAN FEDERATION, Cleveland, OH, JAPAN, FRANCE, ZIMBABWE, New York (NY)

Dr. King's address to the Hungry Club highlights an array of issues that relate to America's "Moral Dilemma." Dr. King explains the three major evil dilemmas that face the nation: war, poverty, and racism.

Letter from United States Congress to MLK

Friday, September 22, 1967
Washington, D.C., Detroit, MI, Los Angeles, CA

Joseph McDade writes Dr. King to solicit his views regarding the affects of organized crime on the plight of the urban poor. test_1_4_2:58pm

Letter to Dorothy Height from Dora McDonald

Thursday, January 5, 1967
New York, NY, New York (NY)

Dora McDonald apologizes to Dorothy Height, President of the National Council of Negro Women, for not responding sooner to let her know that Dr. and Mrs. King would be unable to attend the Premier Life Membership Dinner. The invitation to the dinner came during Dr. King's sabbatical to write a new book.

I've Been To The Mountaintop

Wednesday, April 3, 1968
Memphis, TN, Birmingham, AL

"I've Been to the Mountaintop" is the last speech Dr. King delivered. A day after making this address at the Masonic Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, he was assassinated on the balcony of his hotel room. Dr. King spoke of faith, nonviolent protest and his support of the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike. He urged both a march and a boycott against Memphis area businesses. Dr. King ended his speech by musing about his previous brush with death and other threats against him.

MLK Reflections on the Selma March, Bloody Sunday, SNCC and Communism

Mississippi (MS)

Dr. King discusses the Selma to Montgomery march, calling it the "most powerful and dramatic civil rights protest ever held in the south." Dr. King also addresses criticism of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee's tactics. He concludes these notes by responding to claims that he has communist ties, denying any foreign or left-wing influence on his actions. Of Bayard Rustin and C. T.

Donation Slip with Criticism of MLK

Atlanta, GA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A former contributer to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference criticized Dr. King on top of this donation slip.

Address by MLK to the Hungry Club

Wednesday, December 15, 1965
Atlanta, GA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Virginia (VA), Alabama (AL), Philadelphia, PA, South Africa, Birmingham, AL, Selma, AL, Montgomery, AL, Washington, D.C., Mississippi (MS)

Dr. King addresses the members of The Hungry Club on the dilemma of "Negroes" obtaining complete equality. He refers to several passages from his "I Have a Dream" speech.

Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution

Sunday, August 1, 1965
INDIA, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, Alabama (AL), Mississippi (MS), Selma, AL, Birmingham, AL

Dr. King delivers the commencement address at Oberlin College in Ohio on June 14, 1965. Nothing is more tragic, he says, than sleeping through a significant period of social change by failing to adopt the new mental attitudes that the new situation demands. He suggests that to remain awake through a great revolution one must embrace a global perspective and work for peace, racial justice, economic justice and brotherhood throughout the world.

An Open Letter to Free Americans

Memphis, TN, Birmingham, AL, Washington, D.C.

In response to Dr. King's assassination, the author urges "Free Americans" to join the fight against racism.

Brief for the Petitioners

Saturday, October 1, 1966
Birmingham, AL, Alabama (AL), Wisconsin (WI), Kentucky (KY), California (CA), Connecticut (CT), Texas (TX), Louisiana (LA), New Hampshire (NH), South Carolina (SC), Rhode Island (RI), Maryland (MD), Virginia (VA), New York, NY, Florida (FL), Minnesota (MN), Georgia (GA)

This brochure illustrates questions as well as events pertaining to petitioners during the Civil Rights Movement. Important petitioners, such as Dr. King and Ralph David Abernathy, were convicted and charged with Contempt of Court in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.