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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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The Man Who Was a Fool

Chicago, IL, Illinois (IL)

The sermon "The Man Who Was a Fool," was published in the June 1961 issue of the journal The Pulpit. Dr. King delivered the sermon in both Chicago and Detroit in early 1961.

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.

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.

MLK's Transcript from Crozer Theological Seminary

Wednesday, December 6, 1950
Pennsylvania (PA)

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.

Statement on the Indictment of MLK

Thursday, March 3, 1960
Alabama (AL), UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, New York, NY, New York (NY), Montgomery, AL, New Orleans, LA, Mississippi (MS), Louisiana (LA), Orangeburg, SC, Birmingham, AL, Nashville, TN, Tallahassee, FL, Little Rock, AR

The "Committee to Defend Martin Luther King, Jr." issued this statement, accusing the state of Alabama of falsely distorting Dr. King's 1958 income tax return in an attempt to indict him.

Photo of MLK

An unidentified photo of Dr. King from the Morehouse Collection.

MLK Postcard - American Negro Emancipation Centennial

Wednesday, January 1, 1964
Ohio (OH), Montgomery, AL, Pennsylvania (PA), Boston, MA, Washington, D.C.

The American Negro Emancipation Centennial issued this 1964 postcard containing Dr. King's brief biography. The postcard was designed to be used as a study guide in Negro history.

John F. Kennedy Award Dinner for MLK

Thursday, October 1, 1964
Chicago, IL

The Catholic Interracial Council sponsors the John F. Kennedy Dinner for Dr. King. The Master of Ceremonies will be Sister Mary William and will take place at the Pick-Congress Hotel.

Morehouse College's Standing Among 192 Colleges

Georgia (GA), Atlanta, GA

This document ranks Morehouse College against other colleges in a variety of areas, including endowment, number of Ph.D's on the faculty, and graduates with Ph.D's.

Transcript of National Educational Television's For Freedom Now

Tuesday, July 23, 1963
Chicago, IL, Montgomery, AL, Birmingham, AL, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Washington, D.C., Illinois (IL), Alabama (AL), New York, NY, New York (NY), Ohio (OH), Louisiana (LA), Mississippi (MS), CUBA, HUNGARY

For Freedom Now, with host Dr. Kenneth Clark, is television’s first exchange of ideas by the leaders of five organizations engaged in securing full civil rights for Negroes. Featured guests are Dr. King of SCLC, Whitney Young of the National Urban League, James Farmer of CORE, James Forman of SNCC, and Roy Wilkins of the NAACP.

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

New York, NY

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.

Letter From Vice President Johnson to MLK

Friday, April 27, 1962
Washington, D.C., Atlanta, GA

Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson wrote this note to Dr. King to respectfully decline his invitation to a luncheon and to serve on the board of directors of the Gandhi Society for Human Rights. He states he enjoyed their last meeting and is looking forward to the next one.

A Statement to the South and Nation

Mississippi (MS), Atlanta, GA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Georgia (GA), HUNGARY, South Africa

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.

An Interview With MLK

Atlanta, GA, Montgomery, AL, New York (NY), Birmingham, AL, Boston, MA

A young student from Towns Elementary School in Atlanta interviews Dr. King for a class assignment. The student asks important questions relating to Dr. King's family background, career in ministry and his influence in the civil rights movement. When asked about being the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. King responds by saying, "It is more of a tribute to the thousands of gallant people who have participated in the struggle for equality, and who have done it in a peaceful, courageous manner."

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.

This is Dr. King's official transcript from Morehouse College for 1944-1948

Tuesday, November 7, 1950
Atlanta, GA, Georgia (GA)

This is Dr. King's official transcript from Morehouse College from 1944-1948.

Strength to Love

Sunday, August 11, 1963
New York, NY, New York (NY), London, England, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

This is the printer?s proof of Strength to Love, Dr. King?s book of sermons that was published in 1963. He drafted three of the sermons while serving a fifteen-day jail term in Albany, Georgia. Although his editors lauded the first draft, they later deleted strong phrases about segregation, colonialism and capitalism and many of his statements against war. The collection includes some of Dr. King's most popular sermons, including: Loving Your Enemies, Paul?s Letter to American Christians, A Knock at Midnight, A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart, and Three Dimensions of a Complete Life.

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.

Letter from Stuart E. Atkinson to the SCLC

Oregon (OR), Atlanta, GA

Stuart E. Atkinson sends a donation to the SCLC and requests the address to which he should send donated clothing and toys.

Letter from Robert J. McCracken to MLK

Tuesday, February 4, 1964
New York (NY), New York, NY

Rev. McCracken, of Riverside Church in New York, informs Dr. King that he is scheduled to speak at two identical church services. The Church has added the second service because the New York World?s Fair will be open.

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.

New Wine in Old Bottles

Sunday, January 2, 1966
Atlanta, GA

In a New Year's sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Dr. King addresses Matthew 9:17. His explains that new ideas or inspiration cannot thrive in closed minds or old structures, such as the idea of equality in a segregated society. While Victor Hugo's "idea whose time has come" may be here, Dr. King says, we need to "help time" and overcome the initial resistance to new ideas with persistence and a transformation of the old structures.

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."

Letter from W. C. Akers to MLK

Missouri (MO)

W. C. Akers expresses his concern about Dr. King's support of Adam Clayton Powell.

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.

I Have A Dream

South Carolina (SC), Georgia (GA), Mississippi (MS), Louisiana (LA), Alabama (AL)

In the most famous of his speeches, given from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Dr. King drew on themes from previous sermons and speeches, including an address he called The American Dream. Citing Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, the US Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence, King calls upon the nation to fulfill its promise of freedom and justice for all of its citizens. Although he began by reading from a manuscript, he later abandoned it and spoke directly to the crowd of more than 200,000.

Appeal to the President of the United States

Thursday, May 17, 1962
Washington, D.C.

This document, prepared for the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, serves as a plea to President Kennedy and a legal brief. The plea is to use the centennial as an opportunity to "rededicate" the nation to the principles embedded in the Emancipation Proclamation; to make an executive order to end all statutory segregation and discrimination in the states; and to exercise full leadership protecting civil rights, including the use of force, if nonviolent methods fail.

Letter from an Asylum Inmate to MLK Seeking Assistance

Monday, May 29, 1967
Pennsylvania (PA), Philadelphia, PA, Georgia (GA), Hartford, CT, Connecticut (CT)

Paul Douglas Ware, an untried inmate, requests Dr. King's "understanding, moral support, and possible assistance." Mr. Ware informs Dr. King of detailed information regarding his unjust treatment, his personal life, his present state of mind and most importantly his desire to have a stronger bond with "his own people."

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.

A Christmas Sermon

Sunday, December 24, 1967
Georgia (GA), Atlanta, GA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, INDIA, GERMANY, VIETNAM, Washington, D.C., Alabama (AL), Birmingham, AL, Mississippi (MS)

Dr. King discusses the topics of peace, the state of mankind, and his vision for the future during the delivery of this sermon to the congregation of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.