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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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Presidential Invitation to White House Luncheon

Tuesday, June 5, 1962
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Washington, D.C., CYPRUS

President Kennedy invites Dr. King to attend a White House Luncheon on the occasion of the visit of Archbishop Makarios, the President of the Republic of Cyprus.

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.

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.

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.

Ralph David Abernathy: A Man of the People

Atlanta, GA, Alabama (AL), Montgomery, AL, Memphis, TN, Albany, GA, Chicago, IL, Cleveland, OH, St. Augustine, FL

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference published this booklet profiling Ralph David Abernathy. The articles describe his background, how he got involved in the Civil Rights Movement and the future of the SCLC under his leadership.

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.

SCLC Action Committee Meeting

Sunday, February 11, 1968
St. Augustine, FL, Florida (FL), Alabama (AL), Selma, AL, California (CA), South Dakota (SD), New York (NY), Philadelphia, PA, Washington, D.C., Chicago, IL

This critical 2-day strategy meeting of key SCLC staff takes place 2 months prior to the projected start of the Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, DC. Dr. King expresses concern that they have not met their target goals for participation. Debate ensues about whether to call off the campaign or push it to a later date, and also whether SCLC should abandon all of its other commitments to ensure the success of this project. Problems and solutions are discussed. Staff assignments made for recruitment of the poor, materials, organizational structure, tentative plan of action, D.C.

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.

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.

Telegram from Lawrence F. O'Brien to MLK

Thursday, August 5, 1965
Washington, D.C.

Lawrence O'Brien, Special Assistant to President Johnson, invites Dr. King to the signing of the Voting Rights Act in Washington, D.C.

Telegram from MLK to Rev. Jesse Jackson

Atlanta, GA, Washington, D.C., Chicago, IL

Dr. King writes to Rev. Jesse Jackson, urgently requesting his presence at a meeting of the Action Committee for Washington.

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.

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.

Soap, Brush Help

Chicago, IL, Illinois (IL)

Addressing Chicago slums, the focal point of Dr. King's Chicago crusade, the writer of the article calls for all tenants, regardless of race, creed or color, to assume some responsibility for the upkeep of their buildings instead of expecting Dr. King and the landlords of the buildings to solve the issue for them.

Draft of SCLC 1964 Annual Report

Atlanta, GA, Washington, D.C.

This is a draft of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference 1964 Annual Report. The document outlines developments that occurred in pursuits such as voter registration and Operation Breadbasket. The piece concludes with commentary on the future of the organization, specifically "deeper involvement in political action."

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.

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.

Norwegian Peace Initiative

Friday, January 6, 1967
Oslo, Norway, NORWAY, VIETNAM, Washington, D.C.

Five Norwegians concerned about the Vietnam conflict propose that winners of the Nobel Peace Prize form a negotiating delegation to visit the US and Hanoi governments.

Telegram from MLK to Muhammad Ali

Nevada (NV)

Dr. King sends a supportive telegram to Muhammad Ali. test

Handwritten Thank You Letter From MLK

Dr. King expresses his gratitude for contributions made to the SCLC, and informs the reader of the results of recent studies regarding illegitimate birth rates among negroes as opposed to whites.

Telegram from Robert F. Kennedy to SCLC

Monday, September 24, 1962
Washington, D.C.

On the occasion of SCLC’s Annual Convention, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy states that the country has made great strides toward the realization of SCLC’s goal of assuring the rights of citizenship to all. The Department of Justice has acted and will continue to act to protect the right to vote.

ABC's Issues and Answers: MLK Interview

Sunday, June 18, 1967
Atlanta, GA, Alabama (AL), UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, RUSSIAN FEDERATION, ISRAEL, FRANCE, UNITED KINGDOM, FORMER SOVIET UNION / USSR, Texas (TX), Birmingham, AL, Baltimore, MD, Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles, California

Dr. King sat down with Tom Jerriel, Atlanta Bureau Chief, and John Casserly, Washington Correspondent, of the American Broadcasting Company for their program "Issues and Answers." They discussed the civil rights movement, Dr. King's upcoming book, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that Dr. King would serve jail time in Birmingham.

Anonymous Letter to MLK

Alabama (AL), Mississippi (MS), ISRAEL

The author of this letter asks what Dr. King is doing for his people. He or she recommends the rich Negro people in the community help the poor just as the American Jewish community helped Israel.

Statement by MLK Regarding His Five-Day Jail Sentence in Birmingham

Monday, October 30, 1967
Georgia (GA), Alabama (AL), Birmingham, AL, Washington, D.C., UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Dr. King releases a statement regarding his return to Birmingham, Alabama to serve a five-day jail sentence. He states that he is happy to serve the sentence, but sad that the Supreme Court did not "uphold the rights of individual citizens." He also questions why the United States' resources are being used to fund the Vietnam War rather than to help the poor.

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.

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.

Letter from Bayard Rustin to MLK

Friday, July 7, 1967
Cleveland, OH

Bayard Rustin informs Dr. King that Sydney Vincent, the Executive Director of the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland, would like to gather the major Jewish organizational leaders to discuss Dr. King's work in Cleveland, Ohio.

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.

New Wine in New Bottles

Dr. King outlines a sermon he preached at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery on October 17, 1954. His text is Matthew 9:17. He compares new ideas to new wine, stating that an idea cannot progress if people are not ready to accept it; this is what it means for an idea to be before its time. New ideas require new structures to contain them. The same is true in our personal lives when we resolve to rid ourselves of bad habits.

Letter from MLK to Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa

Monday, April 12, 1965
Washington, D.C.

Dr. King thanks James Hoffa, President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, for his organization's $25,000 contribution to the SCLC. Dr. King explains the current works and beliefs of the SCLC and also stresses the importance of supporters like the Teamsters.