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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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Walk in Sympathy and Brotherhood

Monday, April 8, 1968

This is the itinerary for the Walk in Sympathy and Brotherhood to Dr. King's funeral site. A group of bereaved citizens from Northeast Atlanta organized this walk to express human solidarity.

Donation Slip with Criticism of MLK

A former contributer to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference criticized Dr. King on top of this donation slip.

Sermon at The Washington Cathedral

Sunday, March 31, 1968

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.

The Business Card of the Honorable Al Shabazz (Malcolm X)

During the late 1950s, Malcolm X began going by Malik Al-Shabazz. Shabazz, according to the Nation of Islam, was a Black Nation in central Africa from which all human beings descended. While the date of this card is unknown, it is presumed to be circa the late 1950s to early 1960s, before Malcolm X split from the Nation of Islam in 1964.

MLK's Transcript from Crozer Theological Seminary

Wednesday, December 6, 1950

In 1948, Dr. King entered Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania. Engaging in a sincere quest for knowledge, he sought stimulation in the works of several prominent areas, like philosophy and theology. As a result of his efforts and achievements at Crozer, Dr. King was chosen as the Valedictorian of the graduating class of 1951.

A Look To The Future

Monday, September 2, 1957

For the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Highlander Folk School, Dr. King delivers the speech "A Look To The Future." He uses a timeline to explain the adversities African Americans endured to gain recognition as American citizens. He also points out the efforts of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens Councils to make African Americans second class citizens. Lastly, Dr. King points out that America should be more maladjusted in order to avoid failing to cope with the demands of the normal social environment.

MLK Public Statement on the Poor People's Campaign

Monday, December 4, 1967

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.

Letter from Halevy H. Simmons to MLK

Wednesday, October 3, 1962

New York-based architect Halevy H. Simmons offers his professional services to rebuild Negro churches in the state of Georgia.These pillars of Negro culture were targeted throughout the state in a series of racially motivated hate crimes.

Telegram from Lawrence F. O'Brien to MLK

Thursday, August 5, 1965

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

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.

We Would See Jesus

Sunday, May 7, 1967

Dr. King gives this sermon to a congregation at Ebenezer Baptist Church. He conveys a message of Christ's acceptance of all despite any person's wrong doings in the past. He also points out that Christ's work is exemplified through individual acts of kindness and helping others.

Draft Introduction for "Why We Can't Wait"

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.

Draft of I Have a Dream

Wednesday, August 28, 1963

This version of Dr. King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech reveals important changes to ideas and phrases that Dr. King chose either to alter or omit completely the day he addressed the throng gathered before the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Dr. King's argument against the "normalcy" of bigotry remained a key message on the day he took the podium.

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."

Flight Schedule for Coretta Scott King and Party

Tuesday, December 1, 1964

The Henderson Travel Service provides a detailed schedule of suggested flights for Coretta Scott King and others traveling to witness Dr. King receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Nobel Couple

Thursday, December 10, 1964

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.

Letter from President Johnson to MLK on Assuming Presidency

Monday, December 2, 1963

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.

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.

SCLC Press Release, Poor People's Campaign

Monday, March 4, 1968

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."

People In Action: The Complete Life

Saturday, April 27, 1963

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."

Slum Building Seized

This article includes multiple viewpoints regarding Dr. King and the seizure of a slum building in Chicago.

Letter from MLK to South African Embassy

Wednesday, February 9, 1966

Having been invited to South Africa by the National Union of South African Students and the Students' Visiting Lecturers Organization of the University of Cape Town, Dr. King writes the South African Embassy initiating the process of apply for a visa.

Invitation to President Kennedy's Inaugural Concert

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.

I've Been To The Mountaintop

Wednesday, April 3, 1968

"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.

Telegram from Berry Gordy, Jr. to MLK

President of Motown Record Corporation, Berry Gordy, Jr., awaits Dr. King's decision on the album, "The Great March on Washington."

Epitaph for a First Lady: Eleanor Roosevelt

Upon the death of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Dr. King wrote this epitaph, calling her "a symbol of world citizenship." In addition, Dr. King commends Mrs. Roosevelt for her commitment to humanity.

A Statement to the South and Nation

This seemingly unexceptional document signifies the birth of the SCLC. Dr. King, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and Rev. C. K. Steele assembled a consortium of leaders in Atlanta following the end of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The Southern Leaders Conference on Transportation and Non-Violent Integration issued this statement that addresses the intimidation, discrimination and economic disparity Negroes face in the South. The statement appeals to the federal government to intervene against assaults that block basic civil rights.

March on Washington Address by Eugene Carson Blake

Wednesday, August 28, 1963

Rev Dr. Eugene Carson Blake, Vice Chairman of the Commission on Religion and Race of the National Council of Churches, addresses the March on Washington. He states that if all the clergy and church members he represents and all of the Roman Catholics and Jews in America were marching for jobs and freedom for Negroes, the battle for civil rights would be won. Despite the pronouncements of the religious community, the churches and society are still segregated. “Late, late we come,” he says, and in a repentant and reconciling spirit.

A Knock At Midnight

Sunday, August 9, 1964

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.

Draft of Dedication Page for "Why We Can't Wait"

This document is a rough draft of the dedication page of Dr. King's book "Why We Can't Wait;" the draft reveals Dr. King's wish for his children.