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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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Dr. Spock, Dr. King and Rev. Rice Marching Down 5th Ave. NYC. April 15, 1967

Saturday, April 15, 1967

This photo comes from the Benedict J. Fernandez "Countdown to Eternity" portfolio.
(Copyright: Benedict J. Fernandez)

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.

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.

Letter from MLK to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy

Wednesday, June 24, 1964

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.

Civil Rights Act of 1957

Monday, September 9, 1957

The Civil Rights Act was signed into law on September 9, 1957 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Commonly referred to as the Civil Rights Act of 1957, this was the first such federal law since Reconstruction. The law was aimed at ending voter discrimination tactics such as poll taxes and literacy tests, but it also created the Civil Rights Commission to ensure proper administration of the law.

Economic and Social Bill of Rights

Tuesday, February 6, 1968

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.

The Other America

Sunday, March 10, 1968

Dr. King delivered this speech, "The Other America," for the Local 1199 Salute to Freedom program. The speech emphasized the need to address poverty, the Vietnam War, and race relations in America.

Letter from Halevy H. Simmons to MLK

Wednesday, October 3, 1962

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.

Copyright Agreement for MLK’s Nobel Lecture

This is the Copyright Assignment Agreement established between Dr. King and the Nobel Foundation.

MLK in Memoriam

Following Dr. King's assassination, this tribute highlights King's life and the impact he had on the world. It includes a reading from "The Negro American: A Documentary History," an audio recording of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream Speech" and his eulogy. test2

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.

Letter from W. C. Akers to MLK

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

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.

MLK Reflections on the Selma March, Bloody Sunday, SNCC and Communism

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.

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.

Letter to MLK Requesting Aid

Saturday, September 9, 1967

In this plea to Dr. King, Mrs. Venis Whitten asks for assistance with obtaining adequate medical care and welfare, which would tremendously improve the livelihood of herself and her two grandchildren.

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.

Nobel Lecture by MLK

Friday, December 11, 1964

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 Eleanor Roosevelt to MLK

Saturday, March 31, 1962

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.

The Student Voice

Wednesday, March 1, 1961

SNCC's Newsletter, The Student Voice, updates readers on the progress of the civil rights movement throughout the United States. This issue gives details on incidents of discrimination throughout the South, boycotts, "Stand-Ins," and education opportunities for African Americans.

Birmingham Manifesto

This manifesto details the methods, accomplishments, failures and reasons for the use and postponement of direct action tactics in Birmingham, Alabama.

Letter from J. T. Brooks to Dr. and Mrs. MLK

Monday, November 16, 1953

Dexter Avenue Baptist Church representative J. T. Brooks conveys the church's interest in considering Dr. King for the pastorate.

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.

This is Dr. King's official transcript from Morehouse College for 1944-1948

Tuesday, November 7, 1950

This is Dr. King's official transcript from Morehouse College from 1944-1948.

SCLC Meeting Agenda

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

Telegram from MLK to Senator Robert Kennedy

Dr. King praises Senator Kennedy's efforts toward abolishing the poll tax in state elections.

Poster: This Store Is Against Equal Opportunities for Negroes

The SCLC placed this type of boycott poster on the storefronts of businesses that refused to provide equal job opportunities to Negroes.

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.