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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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Tonight Show Appearance Press Release

Wednesday, January 31, 1968
Washington, D.C.

The SCLC announces that Dr. King will appear on the Tonight Show with Harry Belafonte filling in for Johnny Carson as host. Comedian Nipsey Russell and actor Paul Newman, both active in the civil rights movement, will also be guests. Dr. King looks forward to this opportunity to speak about the upcoming Poor People?s Campaign.

MLK Memorandum on SCLC Direct Action Plans

Birmingham, AL, Montgomery, AL, Virginia (VA), New York (NY), Los Angeles, CA, Chicago, IL, Alabama (AL)

In this confidential memorandum, Dr. King outlines SCLC’s direct action program for Birmingham, Alabama and Danville, Virginia. For each community, he states the challenges, defines goals, and then provides detailed steps to be taken and also staff assignments. He promises to outline his plan for Montgomery, Alabama in a few days.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Letter from W. C. Akers to MLK

Missouri (MO)

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

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.

Letter From Birmingham City Jail

Wednesday, May 1, 1963
Birmingham, AL, Alabama (AL)

Dr. King's famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail" is a response to a statement written by several Alabama Clergymen. In that statement, the Clergymen assert that Dr. King's methods are both "unwise and untimely." They brand him an "outside agitator" who should not be advocating the breaking of the law. Dr. King responds with this Letter and politely references Biblical, Classical and early American figures to counter the arguments of the Clergymen.

The Philosophy of Life Undergirding Christianity and The Christian Ministry

In this essay fragment from his Crozer Seminary days, Dr. King writes that Christianity is a value philosophy whose values are embodied in the life of Christ. He begins to spell out what those values are. The first, King states, is the value of the world as something positive and life-affirming, in contrast to the negative view of the world of the ascetics and religions of India. The second value is that of persons, who have supreme worth. People must be used as ends, never as means to ends, although there have been periods in history where Christianity has fallen short.

Invitation to President Kennedy's Inaugural Concert

Washington, D.C.

This invitation was sent to Dr. and Mrs. King, inviting them to attend a concert celebrating the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. The concert features Mischa Elman, a Russian emigre and famed musician.

Which Way for the Negro Now?

Monday, May 15, 1967
California (CA), Nebraska (NE), Nashville, TN, Louisville, KY, New York, NY, Cleveland, OH, Baltimore, MD, Chicago, IL, Washington, D.C., Selma, AL, Montgomery, AL

In his thirteenth civil rights cover story, Newsweek General Editor Peter Goldman reports on a movement in crisis, with fragmented leadership, impatient black followers, and increasingly alienated white supporters. Goldman and reporters interviewed top leadership ranging from the Urban League’s Whitney Young to black power advocate Stokely Carmichael. This article asks what will become of the Negro Revolution.

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.

Letter from Chuck Barris to MLK

Tuesday, May 4, 1965
Montgomery, AL, California (CA), Selma, AL

Chuck Barris has received national monetary support for the truck rentals used for the Selma to Montgomery March.

Campaign for a World Constitution Leaflet

New York, NY, New Jersey (NJ), Illinois (IL), New York (NY), SWITZERLAND, ITALY, NETHERLANDS, INDIA

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.

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.

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom Pamphlet

New York, NY, New York (NY), Washington, D.C.

This pamphlet promotes the historic March on Washington of August 28, 1963. The pamphlet calls upon Congress to pass civil rights legislation and end the "twin evils of discrimination and economic deprivation" that plague the nation.

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.

How My Theology Has Changed

Dr. King highlights seven main ways in which his theological views have changed since his final year at Crozer Theological Seminary.

Slum Building Seized

Illinois (IL), Chicago, IL

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

Sermon at The Washington Cathedral

Sunday, March 31, 1968
New York (NY), INDIA, SOUTH AFRICA, Washington, D.C.

In a sermon written by Dr. King and addressed to an audience at the Washington Cathedral, the Reverend expounds upon the problem of poverty and war. In describing a projected human revolution, Dr. King states, "Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability." This is just one of the many passages in this inspirational sermon encouraging hope and freedom for all.

Telegram from Berry Gordy, Jr. to MLK

Detroit, MI, Michigan (MI)

President of Motown Record Corporation, Berry Gordy, Jr., awaits Dr. King's decision on the album, "The Great March on Washington."

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.

Telegram from MLK to Muhammad Ali

Nevada (NV)

Dr. King sends a supportive telegram to Muhammad Ali. test

Anonymous Letter to MLK

Alabama (AL), Mississippi (MS), ISRAEL

The author of this letter asks what Dr. King is doing for his people. He or she recommends the rich Negro people in the community help the poor just as the American Jewish community helped Israel.

Proposal for Preventing Denial of the Right to Vote

Thursday, October 29, 1964
Washington, D.C., Mississippi (MS), Alabama (AL), South Carolina (SC)

William L. Higgs proposes that the Democratic Caucus in the US Senate adopt a resolution that no Democratic Senator shall become chairman of a Senate Standing Committee if his seat was won in an election where there was substantial denial of the right to vote based on race. In Mississippi only 6% of eligible Negroes are registered to vote, yet US Senator James Eastland chairs the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee that considers legislation regarding the right to vote and also the appointment of judges charged with enforcing those laws.

Invitation to President Kennedy's Inauguration

Washington, D.C.

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

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.

Letter from Benjamin E. Mays to MLK

Thursday, May 7, 1964
Atlanta, GA

Morehouse College President Benjamin E. Mays writes Dr. King to ask him to consider donating his papers to the Atlanta University Center Library as an alternative to Boston University.