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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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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.

Economic and Social Bill of Rights

Tuesday, February 6, 1968
VIETNAM

The SCLC calls for an economic and social bill of rights to demand the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for African Americans. It would include the right of every employable citizen to a decent job, the right of every citizen to a minimum income, the right to a decent house in a neighborhood of choice, the right to an adequate education, the right to health care, and the right to full participation in decision-making.

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.

SCLC Citizenship Workbook

Atlanta, GA, Georgia (GA), Louisiana (LA), New Orleans, LA, Mississippi (MS), Virginia (VA), Montgomery, AL, Alabama (AL), INDIA, UNITED KINGDOM, Boston, MA, Massachusetts (MA), New York (NY), Washington, D.C., South Carolina (SC), Chicago, IL, Illinois (IL), North Carolina (NC), Florida (FL)

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."

Letter from Joan Daves to Dora MacDonald

Tuesday, May 12, 1964
New York (NY), New York, NY

Joan Daves informs Dora MacDonald of the details for Dr. King's appearances on the Today Show, the Martha Dean Show, a Press Conference and a Channel 13 interview.

Senator Edward Kennedy's Address to SCLC

Monday, August 8, 1966
Mississippi (MS), Massachusetts (MA), Montgomery, AL, New York (NY), Cleveland, OH, Chicago, IL

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) addresses the 1966 SCLC Annual Convention, stating that the sit-ins, freedom rides and Montgomery bus boycott created a movement that brought about the most important change of the last 20 years. He says that while the caste system in politics is over, the life of the average Negro hasn’t changed much. Society is becoming divided rich and poor, black and white, and a massive commitment of national resources must be made to upgrade Negro life in America.

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 Benjamin Mays to MLK

Friday, November 29, 1963
Atlanta, GA

Dr. Benjamin E. Mays writes to Dr. King shortly after President Kennedy's assassination to urge him to take precautions.

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.

Letter from Chauncey Eskridge to David Acton

Tuesday, November 21, 1967
Illinois (IL), Chicago, IL, Pennsylvania (PA), Philadelphia, PA, Washington, D.C.

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.

People in Action: Unknown Heroes

Thursday, May 10, 1962
South Carolina (SC), Mississippi (MS)

This New York Amsterdam News article by Dr. King introduces two unknown heroes of the Civil Rights Movement in the South, Esau Jenkins and Billy Fleming. Jenkins taught the riders on his buses how to read and write so they could qualify to vote. This idea was the basis for SCLC's Citizenship School program. Fleming, an undertaker in Clarendon County, South Carolina, was a leader in the Briggs v. Elliott school desegregation lawsuit, the earliest of five suits to be combined in the US Supreme Court?s landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.

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.

Sixth Grade Wisconsin Achievement Test Responses

Wisconsin (WI), Iowa (IA)

This is a collection of responses from sixth graders of average ability in a Wisconsin school. Although the instructions are not provided, it seems evident that the students were tasked to paraphrase the passage or, simply tell what the passage meant to them.

Letter from United States Congress to MLK

Friday, September 22, 1967
Washington, D.C., Detroit, MI, Los Angeles, CA

Joseph McDade writes Dr. King to solicit his views regarding the affects of organized crime on the plight of the urban poor. test_1_4_2:58pm

Address by MLK to the Hungry Club

Wednesday, December 15, 1965
Atlanta, GA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Virginia (VA), Alabama (AL), Philadelphia, PA, South Africa, Birmingham, AL, Selma, AL, Montgomery, AL, Washington, D.C., Mississippi (MS)

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.

Invitation to President Johnson's Inauguration

Washington, D.C.

Dr. King receives an invitation to attend and participate in the Inauguration of President Lyndon B. Johnson and Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey.

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.

Ebenezer Project Bill

Atlanta, GA, Georgia (GA)

Citizens Trust Company reminds the SCLC of an upcoming payment related to the "Ebenezer Project."

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 MLK to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy

Wednesday, June 24, 1964
Washington, D.C.

Dr. King describes Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy's efforts as "courageous" and "effective" in guiding Congress to establish the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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.

Letter from John R. Yungblut to CSK

Monday, August 2, 1965
Atlanta, GA

Mr. Yungblut of Quaker House, writes Mrs. King to inquire whether the King Children may be interested in participating in a youth dramatics program.

SCLC Resolution on Afro-American Unity

Thursday, August 17, 1967
Atlanta, GA

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.

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.

America's Chief Moral Dilemma

Wednesday, May 10, 1967
CONGO / ZAIRE, SOUTH AFRICA, BELGIUM, Montgomery, AL, Selma, AL, MEXICO, PUERTO RICO, VIETNAM, SOUTH KOREA, TAIWAN, THAILAND, Chicago, IL, CHINA, RUSSIAN FEDERATION, Cleveland, OH, JAPAN, FRANCE, ZIMBABWE, New York (NY)

Dr. King's address to the Hungry Club highlights an array of issues that relate to America's "Moral Dilemma." Dr. King explains the three major evil dilemmas that face the nation: war, poverty, and racism.

I've Been to the Mountaintop

Wednesday, April 3, 1968
Memphis, TN, Birmingham, AL

Dr. King gave this address at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee the night before he was assassinated. He called for nonviolent protest and a boycott of Memphis area businesses in support of the Memphis Sanitation Workers strike. Conveying a sense of foreboding, he not only recounted a near-death experience when he was stabbed near the heart, but also spoke of the possibility of his own demise at the hands of those who opposed him.

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.

Soap, Brush Help

Chicago, IL, Illinois (IL)

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.

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 Halevy H. Simmons to MLK

Wednesday, October 3, 1962
New York (NY), New York, NY, Atlanta, GA, Georgia (GA)

New York-based architect Halevy H. Simmons offers his professional services to rebuild Negro churches in the state of Georgia.These pillars of Negro culture were targeted throughout the state in a series of racially motivated hate crimes.