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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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Bold Design for a New South

Saturday, March 30, 1963
Georgia (GA), Albany, GA, Mississippi (MS), North Carolina (NC)

Dr. King notes that civil rights has been replaced as the "Number One" domestic issue, dwarfed by the Cuban missile crisis, trade legislation and tax reform. He attributes this to public acceptance of tokenism as well as an overly cautious administration. While acknowledging that the administration has made greater efforts on civil rights than previous ones, Dr. King says the progress is constricted and confined.

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.

I HAVE A DREAM

Washington, D.C., UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, California (CA), Los Angeles, CA, Mississippi (MS), New York (NY), Alabama (AL), South Carolina (SC), Georgia (GA), Louisiana (LA), New Hampshire (NH), Pennsylvania (PA), Colorado (CO), Tennessee (TN), Atlanta, GA

Text of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech delivered August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D. C.

Telegram from Ralph Abernathy to John F. Kennedy

Thursday, June 13, 1963
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Washington, D.C.

Rev. Ralph Abernathy accepts President John F. Kennedy’s invitation to meet and discuss the civil rights problem.

Telegram from Civil Rights Leaders to President Kennedy

Monday, September 16, 1963
Washington, D.C., Atlanta, GA, Birmingham, AL, Georgia (GA), Alabama (AL)

Members of the SCLC and prominent civil rights leaders request an immediate conference with President John F. Kennedy regarding the 1963 Birmingham church bombing.

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.

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.

Letter from MLK to Attorney General Robert Kennedy

Tuesday, March 31, 1964
North Carolina (NC), Washington, D.C., Boston, MA

Dr. King writes to Attorney General Robert Kennedy requesting an investigation in Williamston, NC to relieve the Negro community from violence and "unconstitutional police action."

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.

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."

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.

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.

SCLC Citizenship Workbook

Atlanta, GA, Georgia (GA), Louisiana (LA), New Orleans, LA, Mississippi (MS), Virginia (VA), Montgomery, AL, Alabama (AL), INDIA, UNITED KINGDOM, Boston, MA, Massachusetts (MA), New York (NY), Washington, D.C., South Carolina (SC), Chicago, IL, Illinois (IL), North Carolina (NC), Florida (FL)

This workbook is an extension of the SCLC Conference Citizenship program "designed to acquaint citizens with the way in which our government is run and to help them meet voting requirements." This resource tool features a number of vocabulary-building, arithmetic, reading comprehension, and spelling exercises to better equip voters with the knowledge to "fight against prejudice and loss of human rights in education."

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 Chauncey Eskridge to David Acton

Tuesday, November 21, 1967
Illinois (IL), Chicago, IL, Pennsylvania (PA), Philadelphia, PA, Washington, D.C.

This letter from Chauncey Eskridge to David Acton request the Leeds & Northrup Foundation provide a grant to the Southern Christian Leadership Foundation. Chauncey Eskridge includes a tax exempt letter and a copy of the trust instrument outlining the creation of the Southern Christian Leadership Foundation. Both Dr. King and Mr. Bernard Jackson received a copy of this letter.

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.

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.

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.

Sixth Grade Wisconsin Achievement Test Responses

Wisconsin (WI), Iowa (IA)

This is a collection of responses from sixth graders of average ability in a Wisconsin school. Although the instructions are not provided, it seems evident that the students were tasked to paraphrase the passage or, simply tell what the passage meant to them.

Current Magazine

Thursday, August 1, 1963
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Washington, D.C., New York (NY), New York, NY, NORTH KOREA, SOUTH KOREA, GERMANY, Berlin, Germany, VIETNAM, Iowa (IA), Des Moines, IA, FORMER SOVIET UNION / USSR, CUBA, Illinois (IL), Chicago, IL, Ohio (OH), Connecticut (CT), Alabama (AL), Birmingham, AL, Louisiana (LA), New Orleans, LA, HUNGARY, Montgomery, AL, South Carolina (SC), JAPAN, Tokyo, Japan, California (CA), Cleveland, OH, UNITED KINGDOM, ISRAEL, DENMARK, FINLAND, NORWAY, SWEDEN, West Virginia (WV), MEXICO, Arizona (AZ), CHINA, London, England, UZBEKISTAN, Florida (FL), SWITZERLAND, AUSTRIA, BRAZIL, ARGENTINA, CHILE, VENEZUELA, POLAND, CZECH REPUBLIC, UKRAINE

This Current Magazine issue on racism in the U.S. features an article "Is Direct Action Necessary" by Dr. King, as well as pieces by James Meredith, James Reston, and others.

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.

Speeches by the Leaders

Washington, D.C., UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ISRAEL, Alabama (AL), Birmingham, AL, Illinois (IL), Virginia (VA), Mississippi (MS), Georgia (GA), Albany, GA, Chicago, IL, Michigan (MI), Detroit, MI, Pennsylvania (PA), Philadelphia, PA, Jackson, MS, Massachusetts (MA), Cambridge, MA, GERMANY, Berlin, Germany, Boston, MA, New York (NY), New York, NY, Louisiana (LA), New Orleans, LA, California (CA), Arkansas (AR), Little Rock, AR, Maine (ME), South Carolina (SC), New Hampshire (NH), Colorado (CO), Tennessee (TN)

In this booklet, the NAACP compiled famous speeches from the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Included are speeches from A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, James Farmer, Rev. Eugene Carson Blake, Rabbi Joachim Prinz, Whitney M. Young, Matthew Ahmann, John Lewis, Walter Reuther, and Dr. King. The booklet concludes with a pledge and a picture of the throng of supporters that attended the event. test

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.

Senator Edward Kennedy's Address to SCLC

Monday, August 8, 1966
Mississippi (MS), Massachusetts (MA), Montgomery, AL, New York (NY), Cleveland, OH, Chicago, IL

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) addresses the 1966 SCLC Annual Convention, stating that the sit-ins, freedom rides and Montgomery bus boycott created a movement that brought about the most important change of the last 20 years. He says that while the caste system in politics is over, the life of the average Negro hasn’t changed much. Society is becoming divided rich and poor, black and white, and a massive commitment of national resources must be made to upgrade Negro life in America.

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.

Response to Reasons Why African Americans Should Boycott Whitey's Olympics

Wednesday, February 28, 1968
LIBERIA, Chicago, IL

The writer responds to an article in The Post on why African Americans should boycott the Olympics. He believes that Negroes should return to Africa or form their own community in the US separate from whites. God did not intend whites and Negroes to live together, the author maintains, or would have made them the same color. Negroes should take responsibility for their own condition rather than blaming whites. test

Draft Introduction for "Why We Can't Wait"

Atlanta, GA, New York (NY), New York, NY, Birmingham, AL, Washington, D.C., Montgomery, AL

This document is a draft of the introduction for Dr. King's book, "Why We Can't Wait." Dr. King uses various African American children stories to explain that one cannot afford to wait for justice.

Remarks by MLK at the Freedom House Annual Dinner

Tuesday, November 26, 1963
Birmingham, AL, Alabama (AL), Mississippi (MS), Texas (TX)

Dr. King expresses his appreciation for being honored by Freedom House. He also pays tribute to the life and work of John F. Kennedy while encourging others to honor his memory through their dedication to civil rights.

Photo of MLK and Mr. David

Jackson, MS

Mr. David sends Dr. King a picture displaying the two outside a Jackson, Mississippi Holiday Inn.