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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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Letter from Jackie Robinson to MLK

Tuesday, October 9, 1962
New York (NY)

Jackie Robinson writes Dr. King to accept a position of responsibility with the SCLC.

Albany Manifesto

Sunday, July 15, 1962
Albany, GA, Georgia (GA)

The "Albany Manifesto" declares the Albany Movement to be uncompromisingly opposed to segregation. The manifesto positions the group to continue to exercise its free speech and free assembly rights to protest segregation. Protesters insist upon the speedy resolution of the charges against seven hundred protesters that had been languishing for more than six months.

March on Washington Lincoln Memorial Program

Wednesday, August 28, 1963
Washington, D.C.

This document outlines the program held at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Cyprian of Carthage

Dr. King briefly outlines the life of Saint Cyprian of Carthage.

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.

This is SCLC

New Orleans, LA, Birmingham, AL, Montgomery, AL, South Carolina (SC), Georgia (GA), Memphis, TN, Mississippi (MS), Virginia (VA), Louisiana (LA), Alabama (AL), Atlanta, GA, Tennessee (TN)

This SCLC brochure highlights the organization's mission, organizational structure, and initiatives, such as voter registration drives, Citizenship Schools, and the Leadership Training Program.

SCLC Press Release, Poor People's Campaign

Monday, March 4, 1968
Washington, D.C., Birmingham, AL, Alabama (AL), VIETNAM, Selma, AL

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."

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.

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.

What is Man?

Sunday, January 12, 1958
Montgomery, AL

Citing views from historical and contemporary figures, Dr. King asserts that the definition of "man" lies somewhere between God and an animal. Dr. King contends that, although man is limited by time and space, humans are not animals, because they have the capacity for rational thought. However, the central theme that Dr. King argues is that humanity is inherently evil and must constantly strive for high moral standards.

ABC's Issues and Answers: MLK Interview

Sunday, June 18, 1967
Atlanta, GA, Alabama (AL), UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, RUSSIAN FEDERATION, ISRAEL, FRANCE, UNITED KINGDOM, FORMER SOVIET UNION / USSR, Texas (TX), Birmingham, AL, Baltimore, MD, Los Angeles, CA, Los Angeles, California

Dr. King sat down with Tom Jerriel, Atlanta Bureau Chief, and John Casserly, Washington Correspondent, of the American Broadcasting Company for their program "Issues and Answers." They discussed the civil rights movement, Dr. King's upcoming book, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that Dr. King would serve jail time in Birmingham.

Letter from Bible Student to MLK

ISRAEL

The bible student who wrote this letter used biblical references to justify segregation and to persuade Dr. King to cease civil rights demonstrations.

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.

Nobel Lecture by MLK

Friday, December 11, 1964
Oslo, Norway, EGYPT

This is a copy of the Lecture given by Dr. King in Oslo, Norway upon his winning the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize. He thanks the Norwegian Parliament for honoring him with this award. He speaks of the evils of racially injustice and the belief that "oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever." He speaks of the need to peacefully come together in harmony as humanity because a peaceful world cannot be built based on a "negative path."

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.

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.

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.

A Look To The Future

Monday, September 2, 1957
Tennessee (TN), EGYPT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

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.

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.

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.

Ronnie Williams 23rd Anniversary

New Jersey (NJ), Brooklyn, NY

This flyer promotes the Ronnie Williams 23rd Anniversary concert at Symphony Hall in Newark. The featured performers include the 5 Blind Boys of Alabama, Shirley Caesar and the Reverend James Cleveland.

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.

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.

Handwritten Thank You Letter From MLK

Dr. King expresses his gratitude for contributions made to the SCLC, and informs the reader of the results of recent studies regarding illegitimate birth rates among negroes as opposed to whites.

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.

Walk in Sympathy and Brotherhood

Monday, April 8, 1968
Atlanta, GA

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.

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 Address by Eugene Carson Blake

Wednesday, August 28, 1963
Washington, D.C., Illinois (IL), Virginia (VA)

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.

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 MLK to President Kennedy

Dr. King praises President John F. Kennedy for his eloquent appeal for freedom and justice and says the President's message will become "a hallmark in the annals of American history" if his proposed legislation is passed.