Themes

The Archive

Digital Archive brought to you
by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

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.

Explore another theme

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.

The Modern Negro Activist

Montgomery, AL, GHANA, NIGERIA, KENYA, CONGO / ZAIRE, Alabama (AL), California (CA), Cambridge, MA, Massachusetts (MA)

Dr. King profiles the emergent young Negro civil rights activist who is college-educated, creative, brave and committed to the discipline of non-violence. He attributes the activist's diligence to a keen awareness that they inhabit a world on the cusp of positive social change and that they will have the privilege to direct that change. They are no longer to be an imitator of his white counterpart, but rather an initiator and leader in this new age.

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.

Program from Community Salute to MLK: Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Thursday, December 17, 1964
New York, NY

This program is from the Community Salute to Dr. King that occured in New York City following his being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Dr. Spock, Dr. King and Rev. Rice Marching Down 5th Ave. NYC. April 15, 1967

Saturday, April 15, 1967
New York (NY), New York, NY

This photo comes from the Benedict J. Fernandez "Countdown to Eternity" portfolio.
(Copyright: Benedict J. Fernandez)

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."

The Christian Way of Life in Human Relations

Wednesday, December 4, 1957
Little Rock, AR, Atlanta, GA, Montgomery, AL, Arkansas (AR), Georgia (GA), Alabama (AL), Missouri (MO)

Dr. King makes a speech to the National Council of Churches regarding the issue of American race relations. After school integration ... has noticed a radical change in the attitudes of African-Americans, ultimately giving birth to this mental and figurative notion of the "new Negro". He solicits the assistance and leadership of the nation's churches to take a firm stand against the rampant inequalities afflicting blacks are facing in America.

Telegram from President Kennedy to MLK

Washington, D.C., Birmingham, AL

President John F. Kennedy applauds the work of Dr. King and the SCLC on the occasion of the organization’s Sixth Annual Convention.

SCLC Resolution on Afro-American Unity

Thursday, August 17, 1967
Atlanta, GA

In this resolution approved at its Tenth Annual Convention, SCLC affirms the need for Afro-American unity. The organization commits to conduct regional unity conferences involving all sectors of the Negro community, hold Identity Workshops on history and culture, and develop economic and political power so that Negroes can own and control their own communities. The resolution concludes by affirming the importance of black spiritual power, economic power, and political power.

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.

Speech to the Synagogue Council of America

Sunday, December 5, 1965
New York (NY), CHINA

Dr. King receives the Judaism and World Peace Award from the Synagogue Council of America and uses the occasion to speak about the Civil Rights Movement and international peace. He laments the vehement criticism of dissent and discussion of the Vietnam War and enumerates reasons why the Hebrew prophets are so needed today.

Letter from A. Philip Randolph to President Lyndon Johnson

Tuesday, July 18, 1967
Washington, D.C., New York, NY, New Jersey (NJ)

A. Philip Randolph, the President of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (an AFL-CIO affiliate), writes to President Johnson to urge him to convene a small group of national civil rights leaders to advise local leaders and businessmen on how to deal with the escalation of riots occurring all over the country.

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.

Letter from Marie L. Jones Regarding Reverend Ashton Jones

Wednesday, September 25, 1963
Cleveland, OH, California (CA), Los Angeles, CA, New York (NY), Mississippi (MS), Washington, D.C., Atlanta, GA, Georgia (GA)

Mary L. Jones sent out this letter reporting on the plight of her husband, Reverend Ashton Jones, who was arrested in July of 1963 for attempting to lead an interracial student group into a service at the segregated First Baptist Church of Atlanta. Reverend Jones was sentenced to a year in the Georgia state prison and six months of hard labor for the crime of "disturbing a worship service." Mrs. Jones encourages readers of her letter to heed the advice of British social critic Bertrand Russell, by writing an "avalanche of letters" to those responsible.

Telegram from Nobel Committee to MLK

Wednesday, October 14, 1964
Atlanta, GA, Georgia (GA)

The Nobel Committee of Norwegian Parliament notifies Dr. King that he will be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 1964.

Morehouse Introduction to Philosophy Notes

FRANCE, Atlanta, GA

These typed notes from Dr. King’s early years at Morehouse College are for an Introduction to Philosophy course led by Professor Samuel Williams. King outlines the topic of highest ends: motive and standard, changing and unchanging morality, and reason and emotion that determine the standard.

MLK Draft Text Retrieved by T.D. Johnston

Alabama (AL), INDIA, Mississippi (MS), Georgia (GA), GERMANY, SOUTH AFRICA, Montgomery, AL, Jackson, MS

The document is a dedication from T. D. Johnston of Huntsville, Alabama to the King Center. Mr. Johnston acknowledges being on an Eastern Airline plane with Dr. King in 1961, where he noticed that Dr. King tossed a speech text that he found. He decided to hold on to the document for preservation and donated it to the King Center. Martin Luther King, III received the document on behalf of the King Center.

SCLC Press Release, Poor People's Campaign

Monday, March 4, 1968
Washington, D.C., Birmingham, AL, Alabama (AL), VIETNAM, Selma, AL

In this press release intended for the American public and media outlets, Dr. King argues that the country is "splitting into two hostile societies and the chief destructive cutting force is white racism." The SCLC President asserts that the federal government fails to eradicate social ills, like poverty, unless it is "confronted directly and massively." Henceforth, the nonviolent April 1968 Poor People's Campaign is intended to serve as the "final victory over racism and poverty."

Entering 1964: Toward Full Emancipation

Tuesday, December 17, 1963
Birmingham, AL, Philadelphia, PA

In this draft of an article for the NY Amsterdam News, Dr. King asserts that the thrust of the Negro will increase toward full emancipation as they began the year 1964. Dr. King highlights the March on Washington where both Negroes and whites collectively demonstrated the need for self-respect and human dignity in the United States. He also elaborates on the technique of "selective patronage" to broaden the economic and employment opportunities for the African American community.

Telegram from MLK to Senator Robert Kennedy

Washington, D.C.

Dr. King praises Senator Kennedy's efforts toward abolishing the poll tax in state elections.

SCLC Tenth Anniversary Convention

Monday, August 14, 1967
Atlanta, GA

A program outlining the course of events for the 10th Anniversary Convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

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.

Letter from Bible Student to MLK

ISRAEL

The bible student who wrote this letter used biblical references to justify segregation and to persuade Dr. King to cease civil rights demonstrations.

Ronnie Williams 23rd Anniversary

New Jersey (NJ), Brooklyn, NY

This flyer promotes the Ronnie Williams 23rd Anniversary concert at Symphony Hall in Newark. The featured performers include the 5 Blind Boys of Alabama, Shirley Caesar and the Reverend James Cleveland.

Birmingham Manifesto

Birmingham, AL

This manifesto details the methods, accomplishments, failures and reasons for the use and postponement of direct action tactics in Birmingham, Alabama.

The Birth of a New Nation

GHANA, Alabama (AL)

Dr. King compares the ongoing civil rights struggle in the United States to the Hebrews' Exodus from Egypt.

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.

Postcard Congratulating MLK for Receiving the Nobel Prize

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Louise Dekker-Brus congratulates Dr. King on the Nobel Peace Prize and writes that their newspaper says that, in King, America has its Joan of Arc.

Transcripts for Courses at Harvard University

Thursday, August 13, 1953
Cambridge, MA, Massachusetts (MA)

Lois Ryan forwards a transcript for two courses that Dr. King took while studying at Harvard University. These courses were Philosophy of Plate: Introductory and The Philosophy of Whitehead.

MLK Remarks on Negro Press Week

Monday, February 10, 1958
FORMER SOVIET UNION / USSR, ALGERIA

In this transcribed radio address, Dr. King describes how future generations will remember the 20th century as a time where righteous people fought for social, economic, and political freedom. Dr. King also states that the African-American fight for true citizenship is not only a part of American heritage, but also the story of people everywhere who struggle for dignity and freedom. Dr. King made this radio address for Negro Press week a the request of Louisville Defender Editor and National Newspaper Publishers Association board member Frank Stanley.