Themes

The Archive

Digital Archive brought to you
by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

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.

Explore another theme

Telegram from MLK to Elijah Muhammed

Monday, August 14, 1967
Chicago, IL, Illinois (IL)

Dr. King commends Muhammad Ali's conscientious objection to the Vietnam War. He encourages Elijah Muhammed to convince Ali to speak at the upcoming Tenth Annual Convention of SCLC.

Certificate Honoring MLK

Friday, March 31, 1967

This certificate serves to honor MLK for his contributions "in the field of racial relations."

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.

Telegram from Lawrence F. O'Brien to MLK

Thursday, August 5, 1965
Washington, D.C.

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 Eleanor Roosevelt to MLK

Saturday, March 31, 1962
New York, NY, Illinois (IL)

Eleanor Roosevelt invites Dr. King for afternoon tea to discuss ongoing issues in Deerfield, Illinois with Rev. Bletzer and members of the American Freedom of Residence Fund.

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."

Letter from SNCC Executive Committee to MLK

Sunday, March 7, 1965
Selma, AL, Alabama (AL)

John Lewis and Silas Norman of SNCC write Dr. King to address their organization's grievances with the SCLC, specifically the SCLC's lack of cooperation in the Selma Voting Rights campaign. Members of SNCC state their disagreement with the march planned for March 7, 1965 because "the objectives of the march do not justify the danger and the resources involved." Lewis and Norman request a meeting with Dr. King to discuss reconciliation between SNCC and the SCLC.

If I Can Help Somebody

These are the words to a song written in 1945 by Alma Bazel Androzzo that was made famous by gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. Dr. King quotes this song in his Drum Major Instinct sermon delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church on February 4, 1968.

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.

The Birth of a New Nation

GHANA, Alabama (AL)

Dr. King compares the ongoing civil rights struggle in the United States to the Hebrews' Exodus from Egypt.

Miss Mahalia Jackson in Concert

Sunday, December 1, 1963
Atlanta, GA

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference presents Miss Mahalia Jackson in concert, marking "another milestone in her personal dedication to the drive for complete freedom for all humanity."

Civil-Righters Isolation

Saturday, April 1, 1967
Washington, D.C., California (CA), BAHAMAS, Mississippi (MS), VIETNAM, Texas (TX), UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, New York (NY), Arizona (AZ)

David Lawrence states that the recent initiatives of Negro leaders are hindering the overall mission of the Civil Rights Movement. He believes that Negro groups are defeating their own cause.

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.

Text of Speech Delivered at Lincoln Memorial

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

This speech, given by Dr. King at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C, brings attention to the current state of oppression of Negro men and women in 1963.

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.

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.

Telegram from Robert F. Kennedy to SCLC

Monday, September 24, 1962
Washington, D.C.

On the occasion of SCLC’s Annual Convention, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy states that the country has made great strides toward the realization of SCLC’s goal of assuring the rights of citizenship to all. The Department of Justice has acted and will continue to act to protect the right to vote.

An Open Letter to Free Americans

Memphis, TN, Birmingham, AL, Washington, D.C.

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

Invitation to President Kennedy's Inaugural Ball

Washington, D.C.

This invitation was sent to Dr. and Mrs. King, inviting them to the Inaugural Ball following the inauguration of President-elect John F. Kennedy and Vice President-elect Lyndon B. Johnson.

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.

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.

People In Action: Birmingham, U.S.A.

Birmingham, AL, Johannesburg, South Africa, New York, NY

In this first of a two-part article for the New York Amsterdam News, Dr. King writes about the circumstances surrounding SCLC’s decision to develop Project C, a campaign confronting racial injustice in Birmingham. Three factors led to the decision. First, the city was the home of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, SCLC’s strongest affiliate. Second, Birmingham represented the hard-core segregationist South. And third, the South’s largest industrial center was suffering economically from the loss of vital industry and its poor image on race relations.

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.

Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution

Sunday, August 1, 1965
INDIA, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, Alabama (AL), Mississippi (MS), Selma, AL, Birmingham, AL

Dr. King delivers the commencement address at Oberlin College in Ohio on June 14, 1965. Nothing is more tragic, he says, than sleeping through a significant period of social change by failing to adopt the new mental attitudes that the new situation demands. He suggests that to remain awake through a great revolution one must embrace a global perspective and work for peace, racial justice, economic justice and brotherhood throughout the world.

SCLC Meeting Agenda

Birmingham, AL, New York (NY), Atlanta, GA, Alabama (AL), Georgia (GA)

Dr. King notes agenda items to cover with the SCLC staff, including improving organization within the SCLC, finances and upcoming programs.

Donation from United States Trust Company

Tuesday, February 6, 1968
New York (NY), New York, NY

Franklin D. Roosevelt III arranges to have one thousand dollars sent to the SCLC.

Telegram from MLK to Rev. Jesse Jackson

Atlanta, GA, Washington, D.C., Chicago, IL

Dr. King writes to Rev. Jesse Jackson, urgently requesting his presence at a meeting of the Action Committee for Washington.

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.

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.

Letter from the TATTLER Staff to MLK

Tuesday, November 10, 1964
Atlanta, GA, Georgia (GA)

The TATTLER staff at Atlanta's Drexel Catholic High School congratulates Dr. King on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.