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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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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."

Reverend Ralph D. Abernathy's Statement Following MLK's Assasination

Sunday, April 7, 1968
Memphis, TN, Washington, D.C., Tennessee (TN)

Rev. Abernathy acknowledges the deep pain and anger those in SCLC feel at the senseless taking of Dr. King’s life. They pledge that his work and commitment to nonviolence will continue. They are as much against violence, says Abernathy, as they are against racial and economic injustice. He announces that Mrs. King will join him in leading a march in Memphis in support of the sanitation workers and that the Poor People’s Campaign will proceed. He calls upon Congress to respond to the major loss represented by Dr.

Sermon Introductions by MLK

Dr. King frames a series of introductions to sermons that includes such selections as Civilization's Great Need, Life Is What You Make It, and Why Religion?

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."

What's Your Brotherhood Quotient?

National Comics Publications, Inc. publishes this questionnaire as a public service to gauge the attitudes of readers while also enlightening readers about their own xenophobic perceptions. The writer asserts that it is okay to dislike vegetables or insects, but to dislike people is to "hurt them and cheat yourself."

Cyprian of Carthage

Dr. King briefly outlines the life of Saint Cyprian of Carthage.

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.

Dexter Avenue Baptist Church Annual Report, 1955-1956

Montgomery, AL, Alabama (AL), Nashville, TN, Tennessee (TN), Pennsylvania (PA), Chester, PA, Richmond, VA, Virginia (VA), Mississippi (MS), Atlanta, GA, Georgia (GA), Chicago, IL, Illinois (IL), New York (NY), Brooklyn, NY, Columbus, OH, Ohio (OH), Birmingham, AL, Dallas, TX, Texas (TX), New York, NY, Pittsburgh, PA, Los Angeles, CA, California (CA), San Francisco, CA, Wisconsin (WI), CANADA, Cleveland, OH, Colorado (CO), Denver, CO, North Carolina (NC), Boston, MA, Massachusetts (MA)

This report contains vital information concerning the organizational structure, services, and members of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Dr. King provides a heartfelt address to the Montgomery, AL congregation as he seeks to extend the church's influence throughout the community amidst his growing involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.

Letter from an Asylum Inmate to MLK Seeking Assistance

Monday, May 29, 1967
Pennsylvania (PA), Philadelphia, PA, Georgia (GA), Hartford, CT, Connecticut (CT)

Paul Douglas Ware, an untried inmate, requests Dr. King's "understanding, moral support, and possible assistance." Mr. Ware informs Dr. King of detailed information regarding his unjust treatment, his personal life, his present state of mind and most importantly his desire to have a stronger bond with "his own people."

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.

Meet the Press

Sunday, August 21, 1966
Philadelphia, PA, Chicago, IL, Georgia (GA), Mississippi (MS), New York (NY), Alabama (AL), Washington, D.C., NIGERIA, California (CA)

This transcript of a special 90-minute edition of NBC’s Meet the Press features Dr. King and other prominent Negro civil rights leaders discussing the topics of war, nonviolence, integration, unemployment and black power. The program was aired on radio and television.

Letter From Vice President Johnson to MLK

Friday, April 27, 1962
Washington, D.C., Atlanta, GA

Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson wrote this note to Dr. King to respectfully decline his invitation to a luncheon and to serve on the board of directors of the Gandhi Society for Human Rights. He states he enjoyed their last meeting and is looking forward to the next one.

Sermon at The Washington Cathedral

Sunday, March 31, 1968
New York (NY), INDIA, SOUTH AFRICA, Washington, D.C.

In a sermon written by Dr. King and addressed to an audience at the Washington Cathedral, the Reverend expounds upon the problem of poverty and war. In describing a projected human revolution, Dr. King states, "Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability." This is just one of the many passages in this inspirational sermon encouraging hope and freedom for all.

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.

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.

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.

Invitation to President Johnson's Inauguration

Washington, D.C.

Dr. King receives an invitation to attend and participate in the Inauguration of President Lyndon B. Johnson and Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey.

NAACP Fight For Freedom Fund and Awards Dinner

Georgia (GA), Atlanta, GA, New York (NY), California (CA), Maryland (MD), Ohio (OH), Cincinnati, OH, Pennsylvania (PA), Tennessee (TN), Memphis, TN, Michigan (MI), Detroit, MI, Florida (FL), Kansas (KS), Illinois (IL), Chicago, IL, Washington, D.C., Washington (WA), New Jersey (NJ), Indiana (IN), Mississippi (MS), Albany, GA, Texas (TX), Missouri (MO)

Dr. King gives the address at the 1962 NAACP Fight for Freedom Fund and Awards Dinner held at Morehouse College. Coretta Scott King is the soloist.

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.

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.

Birmingham Desegregation Settlement Agreement

Friday, May 10, 1963
Birmingham, AL

Dr. King reviews the settlement made between the City of Birmingham and civil rights protesters. This agreement includes the integration of lunch counters, sitting rooms, restrooms, and water fountains within ninety days.

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.

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."

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.

American Education: Segregation, Northern Style

Arkansas (AR), Little Rock, AR, Louisiana (LA), New Orleans, LA, Mississippi (MS), Georgia (GA), Atlanta, GA, New York (NY), New York, NY, Illinois (IL), Chicago, IL, California (CA), Los Angeles, CA, Washington, D.C., UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Ohio (OH), Cleveland, OH, New Jersey (NJ), Connecticut (CT), Michigan (MI), Detroit, MI, Massachusetts (MA), Indiana (IN)

This article from American Education focuses on the problem of de facto segregation in Northern and Southern cities that results from discrimination in housing and contributes to further housing discrimination and minority unemployment. De facto segregation is as detrimental as legalized (de jure) segregation. The author provides an overview of efforts around the country to eliminate segregation in public schools and some of the difficulties encountered.

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.

The Nobel Couple

Thursday, December 10, 1964
Oslo, Norway, NORWAY

The cover photo of the December 1964 issue of The American Chronicle captures Dr. and Mrs. King after they discover he was named the winner of the year's Nobel Peace Prize.

Economic and Social Bill of Rights

Tuesday, February 6, 1968
VIETNAM

The SCLC calls for an economic and social bill of rights to demand the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for African Americans. It would include the right of every employable citizen to a decent job, the right of every citizen to a minimum income, the right to a decent house in a neighborhood of choice, the right to an adequate education, the right to health care, and the right to full participation in decision-making.

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.

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.