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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 United States Congress to MLK

Friday, September 22, 1967

Joseph McDade writes Dr. King to solicit his views regarding the affects of organized crime on the plight of the urban poor.

King's Way Hurts Rights Movement

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.

Appeal to the President of the United States

Thursday, May 17, 1962

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.

SCLC Resolution on Afro-American Unity

Thursday, August 17, 1967

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.

ABC's Issues and Answers: MLK Interview

Sunday, June 18, 1967

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.

The Modern Negro Activist

Dr. King profiles the emergent young Negro civil rights activist who is college-educated, creative, brave and committed to the discipline of non-violence. He attributes the activist's diligence to a keen awareness that they inhabit a world on the cusp of positive social change and that they will have the privilege to direct that change. They are no longer to be an imitator of his white counterpart, but rather an initiator and leader in this new age.

Letter from Robert J. McCracken to MLK

Tuesday, February 4, 1964

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 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.

An Open Letter to Free Americans

In response to Dr. King's assassination, the author urges "Free Americans" to join the fight against racism.

Speech to the Synagogue Council of America

Sunday, December 5, 1965

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.

Soap, Brush Help

Addressing Chicago slums, the focal point of Dr. King's Chicago crusade, the writer of the article calls for all tenants, regardless of race, creed or color, to assume some responsibility for the upkeep of their buildings instead of expecting Dr. King and the landlords of the buildings to solve the issue for them.

I Have A Dream

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.

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.

Campaign for a World Constitution Leaflet

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.

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."

Telegram from MLK to President Johnson on Rhodesia

Thursday, November 11, 1965

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.

Letter from Marie L. Jones Regarding Reverend Ashton Jones

Wednesday, September 25, 1963

Mary L. Jones sent out this letter reporting on the plight of her husband, Reverend Ashton Jones, who was arrested in July of 1963 for attempting to lead an interracial student group into a service at the segregated First Baptist Church of Atlanta. Reverend Jones was sentenced to a year in the Georgia state prison and six months of hard labor for the crime of "disturbing a worship service." Mrs. Jones encourages readers of her letter to heed the advice of British social critic Bertrand Russell, by writing an "avalanche of letters" to those responsible.

Letter from Lyndon B. Johnson to MLK

Monday, May 18, 1964

President Lyndon B. Johnson writes Dr. King, thanking him for sending him an advance copy of "Why We Can't Wait."

Letter from Andrew Heiskell to MLK

Tuesday, July 25, 1967

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.

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.

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.

Slum Building Seized

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

Program for SCLC Annual Freedom Banquet

Monday, August 8, 1966

This program from SCLC's Tenth Annual Freedom Banquet features Senator Edward M. Kennedy as guest speaker.

Address by MLK to the Hungry Club

Wednesday, December 15, 1965

Dr. King addresses the members of The Hungry Club on the dilemma of "Negroes" obtaining complete equality. He refers to several passages from his "I Have a Dream" speech.

Letter from Chauncey Eskridge to David Acton

Tuesday, November 21, 1967

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.

SCLC Citizenship Workbook

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."

Dr. King Leaves Montgomery for Atlanta

Tuesday, December 1, 1959

This news release announces Dr. King's decision to resign as Pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama and move to Atlanta, Georgia. Relocating to Atlanta will enable Dr. King to Co-Pastor Ebenezer Baptist Church with his father, and will leave him in close proximity to the SCLC.

I HAVE A DREAM

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

New Wine in Old Bottles

Sunday, January 2, 1966

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.

A Christmas Sermon

Sunday, December 24, 1967

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.