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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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A Knock At Midnight

Sunday, August 9, 1964

In a tape-recorded address to the Riverside Church in New York City, Dr. King compares the civil rights struggle to a parable from St. Luke. His sermon specifically tackles contemporary social issues such as segregation, discrimination, and the philosophy of nonviolence. In addition, Dr. King explores the role of the church in dealing with such problems.

Invitation to President Johnson's Inauguration

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

Letter From Birmingham City Jail

Wednesday, May 1, 1963

This version of Dr. King's "Letter From Birmingham Jail," published by the American Friends Service Committee, also includes the original statement made by the clergyman that prompted Dr. King's response. The eight clergymen described Dr. King's actions as "unwise and untimely." In his response, Dr. King references biblical and historical figures to illustrate why the Civil Rights Movement can no longer wait. He also expresses his frustration with many within organized religion and the moderate white American.

Telegram from Berry Gordy, Jr. to MLK

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

Slum Building Seized

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

SCLC Action Committee Meeting

Sunday, February 11, 1968

This critical 2-day strategy meeting of key SCLC staff takes place 2 months prior to the projected start of the Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, DC. Dr. King expresses concern that they have not met their target goals for participation. Debate ensues about whether to call off the campaign or push it to a later date, and also whether SCLC should abandon all of its other commitments to ensure the success of this project. Problems and solutions are discussed. Staff assignments made for recruitment of the poor, materials, organizational structure, tentative plan of action, D.C.

What is Man?

Sunday, January 12, 1958

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.

Dexter Avenue Baptist Church Annual Report, 1955-1956

This report contains vital information concerning the organizational structure, services, and members of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Dr. King provides a heartfelt address to the Montgomery, AL congregation as he seeks to extend the church's influence throughout the community amidst his growing involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.

Who They are and Why They Struck

This article stresses the unfair treatment of twenty-two Claussen Bakery workers. This article also addresses why the workers went on strike.

Letter from Benjamin E. Mays to MLK

Thursday, May 7, 1964

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.

Strength to Love

Sunday, August 11, 1963

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.

Anonymous Letter to MLK

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.

Invitation to President Kennedy's Inaugural Concert

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.

Birmingham Desegregation Settlement Agreement

Friday, May 10, 1963

Dr. King reviews the settlement made between the City of Birmingham and civil rights protesters. This agreement includes the integration of lunch counters, sitting rooms, restrooms, and water fountains within ninety days.

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.

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.

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."

Letter from MLK to Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa

Monday, April 12, 1965

Dr. King thanks James Hoffa, President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, for his organization's $25,000 contribution to the SCLC. Dr. King explains the current works and beliefs of the SCLC and also stresses the importance of supporters like the Teamsters.

Telegram from MLK to Muhammad Ali

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

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.

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.

Statement by MLK Regarding His Five-Day Jail Sentence in Birmingham

Monday, October 30, 1967

Dr. King releases a statement regarding his return to Birmingham, Alabama to serve a five-day jail sentence. He states that he is happy to serve the sentence, but sad that the Supreme Court did not "uphold the rights of individual citizens." He also questions why the United States' resources are being used to fund the Vietnam War rather than to help the poor.

Letter from an Asylum Inmate to MLK Seeking Assistance

Monday, May 29, 1967

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."

Ebenezer Baptist Church Apartment Complex

Wednesday, September 13, 1967

Ralph D. Abernathy informs Mr. J. Lafayette Morgan that he is unable to supply the information Mr. Morgan requested.

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.

Response to Reasons Why African Americans Should Boycott Whitey's Olympics

Wednesday, February 28, 1968

The writer responds to an article in The Post on why African Americans should boycott the Olympics. He believes that Negroes should return to Africa or form their own community in the US separate from whites. God did not intend whites and Negroes to live together, the author maintains, or would have made them the same color. Negroes should take responsibility for their own condition rather than blaming whites. test

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.

Sixth Grade Wisconsin Achievement Test Responses

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.

The Birth of a New Nation

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

Man's Struggle for Freedom

Sunday, June 25, 1967

The "Chicago Tribune" reviews Dr. King's book "Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?"