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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.

The Student Voice

Wednesday, March 1, 1961
Atlanta, GA, Alabama (AL), Washington, D.C., Florida (FL), Georgia (GA)

SNCC's Newsletter, The Student Voice, updates readers on the progress of the civil rights movement throughout the United States. This issue gives details on incidents of discrimination throughout the South, boycotts, "Stand-Ins," and education opportunities for African Americans.

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.

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.

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.

Chicago Nonviolent Action Proposal

Chicago, IL, Mississippi (MS), Alabama (AL), Tennessee (TN), Indiana (IN), Louisville, KY, Atlanta, GA, Birmingham, AL, Selma, AL, Montgomery, AL, New York (NY), New York, NY, Illinois (IL), Kentucky (KY), Pennsylvania (PA), Philadelphia, PA

SCLC's proposal for a nonviolent action campaign in Chicago identifies the city as the prototype for the northern urban race problem. The proposal includes a snapshot of the situation in Chicago, past approaches, SCLC?s philosophy of social change, a description of twelve different aspects of the problem of economic exploitation, and a plan and timetable for mobilizing forces. Objectives are stated for the federal, state, and local levels. SCLC proposes to work in collaboration with the Coordinating Council of Community Organizations.

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom Pamphlet

New York, NY, New York (NY), Washington, D.C.

This pamphlet promotes the historic March on Washington of August 28, 1963. The pamphlet calls upon Congress to pass civil rights legislation and end the "twin evils of discrimination and economic deprivation" that plague the nation.

Letter to MLK Requesting Aid

Saturday, September 9, 1967
Chicago, IL, Illinois (IL)

In this plea to Dr. King, Mrs. Venis Whitten asks for assistance with obtaining adequate medical care and welfare, which would tremendously improve the livelihood of herself and her two grandchildren.

Financial Report of the SCLC Home Office - Atlanta, GA, 1965-1966

Monday, August 8, 1966
Atlanta, GA, Los Angeles, CA, New York (NY), Chicago, IL, Washington, D.C., North Carolina (NC), Nashville, TN, Illinois (IL), Alabama (AL), Georgia (GA), California (CA), Tennessee (TN)

Jesse B. Blayton provides a summarized financial statement of cash receipts and disbursements for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference from July 1, 1965 to and including, June 30, 1966. This statement lists the allocations of funds for Operation Breadbasket, voter registration and political education initiatives, legal defense, and more.

Civil-Righters Isolation

Saturday, April 1, 1967
Washington, D.C., California (CA), BAHAMAS, Mississippi (MS), VIETNAM, Texas (TX), UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, New York (NY), Arizona (AZ)

David Lawrence states that the recent initiatives of Negro leaders are hindering the overall mission of the Civil Rights Movement. He believes that Negro groups are defeating their own cause.

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.

Telegram from MLK to Elijah Muhammed

Monday, August 14, 1967
Chicago, IL, Illinois (IL)

Dr. King commends Muhammad Ali's conscientious objection to the Vietnam War. He encourages Elijah Muhammed to convince Ali to speak at the upcoming Tenth Annual Convention of SCLC.

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.

Preferred Risk Mutual Insurance Company

Monday, April 3, 1967
Atlanta, GA, Georgia (GA)

The manager of Preferred Risk Mutual Auto, D.G. Witt, sends an insurance renewal request to Dr. King with policies and surcharge information. He explains that the companies decision to renew his policy was one of deep consideration due to the numerous car accidents during Dr. King's policy with the company.

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.

MLK Speech at NAACP Sponsored Rally for Civil Rights

Sunday, July 10, 1960
Los Angeles, CA, Georgia (GA), Washington, D.C.

Dr. King gives a speech in which he addresses a myriad of issues on the subject of civil rights.

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.

Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution

Sunday, August 1, 1965
INDIA, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, Alabama (AL), Mississippi (MS), Selma, AL, Birmingham, AL

Dr. King delivers the commencement address at Oberlin College in Ohio on June 14, 1965. Nothing is more tragic, he says, than sleeping through a significant period of social change by failing to adopt the new mental attitudes that the new situation demands. He suggests that to remain awake through a great revolution one must embrace a global perspective and work for peace, racial justice, economic justice and brotherhood throughout the world.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Tuesday, January 1, 1974
Georgia (GA), Atlanta, GA, California (CA), Los Angeles, CA, Washington, D.C., New York (NY), New York, NY

This document is regarding the celebration of the Birthday Anniversary of the late Dr. King. The author states, "While the national holiday legislation is pending in Congress, masses of people everywhere already personally declare the date to be their own to honor one of history's greatest leaders."

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: 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.

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.

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.

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.

Telegram from MLK to President Johnson on Rhodesia

Thursday, November 11, 1965
Washington, D.C., South Africa

Dr. King urges President Johnson to respond to the unilateral declaration of independence by Prime Minister Ian Smith of Rhodesia by withdrawing American officials, refusing diplomatic recognition and severing economic ties.

Request for Preliminary Determination of Eligibility - Nonprofit

Tuesday, November 7, 1967
Georgia (GA), Atlanta, GA

This document serves as a request to establish Ebenezer Baptist Church as a Non-Profit Sponsor or Mortgagor.

Letter from Andrew Heiskell to MLK

Tuesday, July 25, 1967
New York, NY, Chicago, IL, Atlanta, GA, Detroit, MI, Boston, MA, Washington, D.C.

Mr. Heiskell extends an invitation for Dr. King to join Mayors of major cities and other national leaders in forming a coalition to address urban problems.

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.

Letter from John R. Yungblut to CSK

Monday, August 2, 1965
Atlanta, GA

Mr. Yungblut of Quaker House, writes Mrs. King to inquire whether the King Children may be interested in participating in a youth dramatics program.

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."