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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.

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."

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.

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.

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.

Invitation to President Kennedy's Inaugural Ball

Washington, D.C.

This invitation was sent to Dr. and Mrs. King, inviting them to the Inaugural Ball following the inauguration of President-elect John F. Kennedy and Vice President-elect Lyndon B. Johnson.

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.

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

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.

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.

Appeal from Wyatt Tee Walker for Albany Support

Wednesday, July 25, 1962
Albany, GA

Following the arrests of Dr. King and three others who held a prayer vigil at the Albany, Georgia City Hall, Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker issues this appeal for support from those active in the civil rights movement. He calls for telegrams to be sent to federal, state, and local officials, prayer vigils, and the wearing of black armbands.

The Massachusetts Review: A Legacy of Creative Protest

Friday, September 7, 1962
Mississippi (MS), Albany, GA, Montgomery, AL, Massachusetts (MA), Georgia (GA), Alabama (AL)

Dr. King writes of the influence of Henry David Thoreau's essay on the duty of civil disobedience in forming his belief that non-cooperation with evil is a moral obligation. He cites lunch-counter sit-ins, freedom rides, and the bus boycott as evidence that Thoreau’s thinking is still alive. This article appeared in a special 1962 issue of The Massachusetts Review commemorating the centennial of Thoreau’s death.

John F. Kennedy Award Dinner for MLK

Thursday, October 1, 1964
Chicago, IL

The Catholic Interracial Council sponsors the John F. Kennedy Dinner for Dr. King. The Master of Ceremonies will be Sister Mary William and will take place at the Pick-Congress Hotel.

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: 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.

What is Man?

Sunday, January 12, 1958
Montgomery, AL

Citing views from historical and contemporary figures, Dr. King asserts that the definition of "man" lies somewhere between God and an animal. Dr. King contends that, although man is limited by time and space, humans are not animals, because they have the capacity for rational thought. However, the central theme that Dr. King argues is that humanity is inherently evil and must constantly strive for high moral standards.

MLK Memorandum on SCLC Direct Action Plans

Birmingham, AL, Montgomery, AL, Virginia (VA), New York (NY), Los Angeles, CA, Chicago, IL, Alabama (AL)

In this confidential memorandum, Dr. King outlines SCLC’s direct action program for Birmingham, Alabama and Danville, Virginia. For each community, he states the challenges, defines goals, and then provides detailed steps to be taken and also staff assignments. He promises to outline his plan for Montgomery, Alabama in a few days.

Nobel Lecture by MLK

Friday, December 11, 1964
Oslo, Norway, EGYPT

This is a copy of the Lecture given by Dr. King in Oslo, Norway upon his winning the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize. He thanks the Norwegian Parliament for honoring him with this award. He speaks of the evils of racially injustice and the belief that "oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever." He speaks of the need to peacefully come together in harmony as humanity because a peaceful world cannot be built based on a "negative path."

People In Action: The Complete Life

Saturday, April 27, 1963
Birmingham, AL, New York (NY)

Dr. King was in jail in Birmingham and unable to contribute his regular column to the New York Amsterdam News. The editors published these excerpts from a sermon he had recently given at Riverside Church on "The Dimensions of a Complete Life."

Letter from Joan Daves to Dora MacDonald

Tuesday, May 12, 1964
New York (NY), New York, NY

Joan Daves informs Dora MacDonald of the details for Dr. King's appearances on the Today Show, the Martha Dean Show, a Press Conference and a Channel 13 interview.

MLK in Memoriam

Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania (PA), VIETNAM, Georgia (GA)

Following Dr. King's assassination, this tribute highlights King's life and the impact he had on the world. It includes a reading from "The Negro American: A Documentary History," an audio recording of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream Speech" and his eulogy. test2

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 Postcard - American Negro Emancipation Centennial

Wednesday, January 1, 1964
Ohio (OH), Montgomery, AL, Pennsylvania (PA), Boston, MA, Washington, D.C.

The American Negro Emancipation Centennial issued this 1964 postcard containing Dr. King's brief biography. The postcard was designed to be used as a study guide in Negro history.

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.

A Look To The Future

Monday, September 2, 1957
Tennessee (TN), EGYPT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

For the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Highlander Folk School, Dr. King delivers the speech "A Look To The Future." He uses a timeline to explain the adversities African Americans endured to gain recognition as American citizens. He also points out the efforts of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens Councils to make African Americans second class citizens. Lastly, Dr. King points out that America should be more maladjusted in order to avoid failing to cope with the demands of the normal social environment.

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.

Letter from the TATTLER Staff to MLK

Tuesday, November 10, 1964
Atlanta, GA, Georgia (GA)

The TATTLER staff at Atlanta's Drexel Catholic High School congratulates Dr. King on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

Campaign for a World Constitution Leaflet

New York, NY, New Jersey (NJ), Illinois (IL), New York (NY), SWITZERLAND, ITALY, NETHERLANDS, INDIA

This pamphlet announces a World Constitutional Convention to be held in Switzerland. Dr. King, who was among the signers of a "Call for a Constitutional Convention," is quoted in the leaflet stating that a world government would lessen tensions.

How My Theology Has Changed

Dr. King highlights seven main ways in which his theological views have changed since his final year at Crozer Theological Seminary.