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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 Benjamin E. Mays to MLK

Thursday, May 7, 1964
Atlanta, GA

Morehouse College President Benjamin E. Mays writes Dr. King to ask him to consider donating his papers to the Atlanta University Center Library as an alternative to Boston University.

Civil Rights Act of 1957

Monday, September 9, 1957
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Washington, D.C.

The Civil Rights Act was signed into law on September 9, 1957 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Commonly referred to as the Civil Rights Act of 1957, this was the first such federal law since Reconstruction. The law was aimed at ending voter discrimination tactics such as poll taxes and literacy tests, but it also created the Civil Rights Commission to ensure proper administration of the law.

Dr. King Leaves Montgomery for Atlanta

Tuesday, December 1, 1959
Alabama (AL), Montgomery, AL, Atlanta, GA, Georgia (GA)

This news release announces Dr. King's decision to resign as Pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama and move to Atlanta, Georgia. Relocating to Atlanta will enable Dr. King to Co-Pastor Ebenezer Baptist Church with his father, and will leave him in close proximity to the SCLC.

Flight Schedule for Coretta Scott King and Party

Tuesday, December 1, 1964
Atlanta, GA, London, England, New York, NY, FRANCE, Oslo, Norway, Stockholm, Sweden, DENMARK, Georgia (GA), UNITED KINGDOM, New York (NY)

The Henderson Travel Service provides a detailed schedule of suggested flights for Coretta Scott King and others traveling to witness Dr. King receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

March on Washington Address by Eugene Carson Blake

Wednesday, August 28, 1963
Washington, D.C., Illinois (IL), Virginia (VA)

Rev Dr. Eugene Carson Blake, Vice Chairman of the Commission on Religion and Race of the National Council of Churches, addresses the March on Washington. He states that if all the clergy and church members he represents and all of the Roman Catholics and Jews in America were marching for jobs and freedom for Negroes, the battle for civil rights would be won. Despite the pronouncements of the religious community, the churches and society are still segregated. “Late, late we come,” he says, and in a repentant and reconciling spirit.

MLK Examination Book for Bible Course

Tuesday, March 26, 1946

Dr. King answers a number of questions for an exam in his Bible course. He covers diverse topics, including prophecy and the Book of Job.

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom Pamphlet

New York, NY, New York (NY), Washington, D.C.

This pamphlet promotes the historic March on Washington of August 28, 1963. The pamphlet calls upon Congress to pass civil rights legislation and end the "twin evils of discrimination and economic deprivation" that plague the nation.

Remarks by MLK in Acceptance of the Spingarn Medal

Friday, June 28, 1957
Michigan (MI), Detroit, MI, Montgomery, AL, Alabama (AL), EGYPT, GHANA, Washington, D.C.

In his acceptance speech for the Spingarn Medal, Dr. King remarks about the need for continuing the fight for social justice and equality around the world. He acknowledges the work of NAACP along with protesters as they continue to be on the frontline in addressing the nation's social ills.

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.

Telegram from Berry Gordy, Jr. to MLK

Detroit, MI, Michigan (MI)

President of Motown Record Corporation, Berry Gordy, Jr., awaits Dr. King's decision on the album, "The Great March on Washington."

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.

Letter from Stuart E. Atkinson to the SCLC

Oregon (OR), Atlanta, GA

Stuart E. Atkinson sends a donation to the SCLC and requests the address to which he should send donated clothing and toys.

MLK's Transcript from Crozer Theological Seminary

Wednesday, December 6, 1950
Pennsylvania (PA)

In 1948, Dr. King entered Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania. Engaging in a sincere quest for knowledge, he sought stimulation in the works of several prominent areas, like philosophy and theology. As a result of his efforts and achievements at Crozer, Dr. King was chosen as the Valedictorian of the graduating class of 1951.

If I Can Help Somebody

These are the words to a song written in 1945 by Alma Bazel Androzzo that was made famous by gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. Dr. King quotes this song in his Drum Major Instinct sermon delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church on February 4, 1968.

Letter from Josephine Baker to MLK

Saturday, August 31, 1963
FRANCE

Josephine Baker expresses her admiration for Dr. King as a great leader and articulates her commitment to the Civil Rights Movement.

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.

Letter from Chuck Barris to MLK

Tuesday, May 4, 1965
Montgomery, AL, California (CA), Selma, AL

Chuck Barris has received national monetary support for the truck rentals used for the Selma to Montgomery March.

Letter from Dora McDonald to Bill Daniels

Friday, September 29, 1967
Atlanta, GA

Dora McDonald writes Bill Daniels, of WSB-TV, expressing outrage over a cartoon depicting overt racism in a court of law.

Program for SCLC Annual Freedom Banquet

Monday, August 8, 1966
Mississippi (MS), Jackson, MS, Massachusetts (MA)

This program from SCLC's Tenth Annual Freedom Banquet features Senator Edward M. Kennedy as guest speaker.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Tuesday, January 1, 1974
Georgia (GA), Atlanta, GA, California (CA), Los Angeles, CA, Washington, D.C., New York (NY), New York, NY

This document is regarding the celebration of the Birthday Anniversary of the late Dr. King. The author states, "While the national holiday legislation is pending in Congress, masses of people everywhere already personally declare the date to be their own to honor one of history's greatest leaders."

I've Been to the Mountaintop

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

Dr. King gave this address at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee the night before he was assassinated. He called for nonviolent protest and a boycott of Memphis area businesses in support of the Memphis Sanitation Workers strike. Conveying a sense of foreboding, he not only recounted a near-death experience when he was stabbed near the heart, but also spoke of the possibility of his own demise at the hands of those who opposed him.

Letter from Richard Nixon to MLK

Tuesday, September 17, 1957
Washington, D.C., Montgomery, AL

Vice President Nixon writes to Dr. King concerning the efficiency and effectiveness of the Civil Rights Bill. He expresses his gratitude for a previous correspondence from Dr. King and ensures his continued advocacy of civil rights legislation.

People in Action: Unknown Heroes

Thursday, May 10, 1962
South Carolina (SC), Mississippi (MS)

This New York Amsterdam News article by Dr. King introduces two unknown heroes of the Civil Rights Movement in the South, Esau Jenkins and Billy Fleming. Jenkins taught the riders on his buses how to read and write so they could qualify to vote. This idea was the basis for SCLC's Citizenship School program. Fleming, an undertaker in Clarendon County, South Carolina, was a leader in the Briggs v. Elliott school desegregation lawsuit, the earliest of five suits to be combined in the US Supreme Court?s landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.

Poster: This Store Is Against Equal Opportunities for Negroes

Texas (TX)

The SCLC placed this type of boycott poster on the storefronts of businesses that refused to provide equal job opportunities to Negroes.

Statement on the Indictment of MLK

Thursday, March 3, 1960
Alabama (AL), UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, New York, NY, New York (NY), Montgomery, AL, New Orleans, LA, Mississippi (MS), Louisiana (LA), Orangeburg, SC, Birmingham, AL, Nashville, TN, Tallahassee, FL, Little Rock, AR

The "Committee to Defend Martin Luther King, Jr." issued this statement, accusing the state of Alabama of falsely distorting Dr. King's 1958 income tax return in an attempt to indict him.

Telegram from Malcolm X to MLK

Tuesday, June 30, 1964
St. Augustine, FL, New York (NY)

Malcolm X offers Dr. King assistance with the situation in St. Augustine, including the organization of self-defense units.

Letter from Angie Elizabeth Shelton to MLK

Mrs. Shelton expresses her gratitude to Dr. King for renewing her faith. After reading one of Dr. King's books, she states that she felt herself beginning to believe. Mrs. Shelton has decided to buy and study "Civil Disobedience" thanks to Dr. King.

Donation from United States Trust Company

Tuesday, February 6, 1968
New York (NY), New York, NY

Franklin D. Roosevelt III arranges to have one thousand dollars sent to the SCLC.

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.

President Kennedy's Stand on Negotiation in Albany

Albany, GA

In this statement made from the Albany, Georgia city jail where he was imprisoned, Dr. King expresses appreciation for President Kennedy's support of negotiation between Albany's City Commission and civil rights leaders.