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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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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.

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.

Telegram from MLK to President Kennedy

Thursday, March 29, 1962
Washington, D.C.

Dr. King recommends that President John F. Kennedy consider William H. Hastie and Thurgood Marshall for appointment to the US Supreme Court.

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.

SCLC Resolution on Afro-American Unity

Thursday, August 17, 1967
Atlanta, GA

In this resolution approved at its Tenth Annual Convention, SCLC affirms the need for Afro-American unity. The organization commits to conduct regional unity conferences involving all sectors of the Negro community, hold Identity Workshops on history and culture, and develop economic and political power so that Negroes can own and control their own communities. The resolution concludes by affirming the importance of black spiritual power, economic power, and political power.

I've Been To The Mountaintop

Wednesday, April 3, 1968
Memphis, TN, Birmingham, AL

"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.

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.

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."

Excerpt from The Drum Major Instinct

This passage quotes one of Dr. King's acclaimed sermons delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. He defines the desire to lead as "the Drum Major instinct." Seeing himself as a Drum Major for justice, peace, and righteousness, Dr. King posits what should be said at his funeral.

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."

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

St. Augustine, Florida: 400 Years of Bigotry and Hate

St. Augustine, FL, Jacksonville, FL, Massachusetts (MA), Connecticut (CT), Florida (FL)

The SCLC compiled and published this pamphlet about St. Augustine, Florida, describing a long history of racial discrimination and segregation supported by Northern tourism.

Ebenezer Project Bill

Atlanta, GA, Georgia (GA)

Citizens Trust Company reminds the SCLC of an upcoming payment related to the "Ebenezer Project."

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.

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 Examination Book for Bible Course

Tuesday, March 26, 1946

Dr. King answers a number of questions for an exam in his Bible course. He covers diverse topics, including prophecy and the Book of Job.

Transformed Nonconformists Sermon Outline

In this brief outline for a sermon based on Romans 12:2, Dr. King asserts that Christians are citizens of two worlds, those of time and eternity. They are in the world, but not of it. In a generation of the mass mind, they are called to live differently – to make history not be made by history. But nonconformity in itself is not good; there must be a mental transformation. The world is on the brink of moral and physical destruction and the need of the hour is for nonconformists to materialism, nationalism and militarism.

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.

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.

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.

Nobel Peace Prize Dinner Program

Monday, January 27, 1964
Atlanta, GA

The citizens of Atlanta held a recognition dinner on January 27, 1965 to honor Dr. King for his Nobel Peace Prize. Tributes were offered by Mayor Ivan Allen, Jr., AME Bishop Ernest Hickman, Rev. Edward Driscoll of the Georgia Council of Churches, State Senator Leroy Johnson, and Roman Catholic Archbishop Paul Hallinan. Dr. King gave the address.

Transcripts for Courses at Harvard University

Thursday, August 13, 1953
Cambridge, MA, Massachusetts (MA)

Lois Ryan forwards a transcript for two courses that Dr. King took while studying at Harvard University. These courses were Philosophy of Plate: Introductory and The Philosophy of Whitehead.

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."

Letter from Josephine Baker to MLK

Saturday, August 31, 1963
FRANCE

Josephine Baker expresses her admiration for Dr. King as a great leader and articulates her commitment to the Civil Rights Movement.

Postcard Congratulating MLK for Receiving the Nobel Prize

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Louise Dekker-Brus congratulates Dr. King on the Nobel Peace Prize and writes that their newspaper says that, in King, America has its Joan of Arc.