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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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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.

New Wine in Old Bottles

Sunday, January 2, 1966
Atlanta, GA

In a New Year's sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Dr. King addresses Matthew 9:17. His explains that new ideas or inspiration cannot thrive in closed minds or old structures, such as the idea of equality in a segregated society. While Victor Hugo's "idea whose time has come" may be here, Dr. King says, we need to "help time" and overcome the initial resistance to new ideas with persistence and a transformation of the old structures.

MLK - Justice Without Violence

Wednesday, April 3, 1957
Massachusetts (MA)

Dr. King gave this 1957 address to the Institute of Adult Education at Brandeis University in Boston, Massachusetts.

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.

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.

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.

Letter from Jay Richard Kennedy to MLK

Monday, October 28, 1963
New York (NY), New York, NY, Washington, D.C.

Jay Kennedy encloses a copy of a picture and a transcript from a television program that included Dr. King. He thanks Dr. King for an earlier letter and explains that their views are aligned. Kennedy also briefly discusses civil rights in America and the federal government.

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.

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.

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.

King's Way Hurts Rights Movement

Washington, D.C., Massachusetts (MA), Illinois (IL), Chicago, IL

Mr. White, author of this article, argues that the political fallout from Dr. King's stance on America's involvement in Vietnam hinders the goals of the Civil Rights Movement.

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.

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.

Our God is Able

Montgomery, AL, Alabama (AL)

This is a chapter draft of the sermon for Dr. King’s book Strength to Love. Using Jude 1:24 as his text, Dr. King expounds on his belief that there is a God of power that is able to sustain the universe, conquer the evils of history, and give us the interior resources to face the trials of life. He speaks of his own experience of turning to God when he was exhausted and overcome with fear after a telephone death threat. His inner peace restored, he was able calmly to accept the news three days later that his home had been bombed.

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?

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.

A Knock At Midnight

Sunday, August 9, 1964
Atlanta, GA, New York (NY), New York, NY, New Jersey (NJ), Mississippi (MS), Alabama (AL), Birmingham, AL

In a tape-recorded address to the Riverside Church in New York City, Dr. King compares the civil rights struggle to a parable from St. Luke. His sermon specifically tackles contemporary social issues such as segregation, discrimination, and the philosophy of nonviolence. In addition, Dr. King explores the role of the church in dealing with such problems.

March on Washington Lincoln Memorial Program

Wednesday, August 28, 1963
Washington, D.C.

This document outlines the program held at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Letter from A. Phillip Randolph to MLK

Tuesday, April 7, 1964
New York (NY), New York, NY, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Mr. Randolph addresses his concerns with current events that could potentially harm the Civil Rights Movement. His list of developments includes Malcolm X's promotion of rifle clubs, the use of propaganda tactics to separate white people from the Civil Rights Movement, the increasing totalitarian influence on protest groups in northern cities and demagogic leadership that creates confusion and frustration. Mr. Randolph requests a meeting to discuss how to address these issues.

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 Mastery of Fear

This outline explains the direction of Dr. King's sermon entitled "The Mastery of Fear." In it, Dr. King explores the challenges and necessity of confronting fear.

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.

The Purpose of Religion

Dr. King argues that the purpose of religion is not to "perpetuate a dogma," but to create witnesses to the power of God. He also considers whether salvation comes from upholding a particular creed or whether it comes from an individual reconciling with God.

Letter from President Johnson to MLK on Assuming Presidency

Monday, December 2, 1963
Washington, D.C., Atlanta, GA

President Johnson writes Dr. King thanking him for his sympathetic telegram as he assumes the Presidency and assures him that he will continue the fight for civil rights initiated by President Kennedy.

Invitation to President Kennedy's Inaugural Concert

Washington, D.C.

This invitation was sent to Dr. and Mrs. King, inviting them to attend a concert celebrating the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. The concert features Mischa Elman, a Russian emigre and famed musician.

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.

The Strength of the Legacy

Sunday, November 22, 1964
Philadelphia, PA, Pennsylvania (PA), Mississippi (MS), Florida (FL)

In this New York Herald Tribune article, Dr. King refers to the recent 1964 Presidential election as a decisive repudiation of segregation and extremism. He claims the election results honored the memory of President John F. Kennedy, assassinated a year earlier. Kennedy’s greatest contribution to human rights, King says, was his televised appeal to the American people on June 19, 1963 describing equal rights and equal opportunity as a moral issue as old as the scriptures and as clear as the Constitution.

I Marched on Washington

Washington (WA), Louisiana (LA), Philadelphia, PA

Kelly E. Miller composed this poem for Dr. King as a tribute to the March on Washington.

Letter from Dimitri Papaspyrou to MLK

Thursday, January 26, 1967
GREECE, Atlanta, GA

Dimitri Papaspyrou, President of the Parliament, invites Dr. King to Greece to create a better understanding between Greek and American people.

Letter from Eleanor Roosevelt to MLK

Saturday, March 31, 1962
New York, NY, Illinois (IL)

Eleanor Roosevelt invites Dr. King for afternoon tea to discuss ongoing issues in Deerfield, Illinois with Rev. Bletzer and members of the American Freedom of Residence Fund.