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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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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.

Remarks by MLK in Acceptance of the Spingarn Medal

Friday, June 28, 1957
Michigan (MI), Detroit, MI, Montgomery, AL, Alabama (AL), EGYPT, GHANA, Washington, D.C.

In his acceptance speech for the Spingarn Medal, Dr. King remarks about the need for continuing the fight for social justice and equality around the world. He acknowledges the work of NAACP along with protesters as they continue to be on the frontline in addressing the nation's social ills.

Letter from MLK to Attorney General Robert Kennedy

Tuesday, March 31, 1964
North Carolina (NC), Washington, D.C., Boston, MA

Dr. King writes to Attorney General Robert Kennedy requesting an investigation in Williamston, NC to relieve the Negro community from violence and "unconstitutional police action."

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.

Draft of SCLC 1964 Annual Report

Atlanta, GA, Washington, D.C.

This is a draft of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference 1964 Annual Report. The document outlines developments that occurred in pursuits such as voter registration and Operation Breadbasket. The piece concludes with commentary on the future of the organization, specifically "deeper involvement in political action."

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.

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

Mississippi (MS)

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.

Postcard from Dekker Family

NETHERLANDS

The Dekker family of Holland sends its support to Dr. King.

Presidential Invitation to White House Luncheon

Tuesday, June 5, 1962
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Washington, D.C., CYPRUS

President Kennedy invites Dr. King to attend a White House Luncheon on the occasion of the visit of Archbishop Makarios, the President of the Republic of Cyprus.

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.

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.

An Interview With MLK

Atlanta, GA, Montgomery, AL, New York (NY), Birmingham, AL, Boston, MA

A young student from Towns Elementary School in Atlanta interviews Dr. King for a class assignment. The student asks important questions relating to Dr. King's family background, career in ministry and his influence in the civil rights movement. When asked about being the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. King responds by saying, "It is more of a tribute to the thousands of gallant people who have participated in the struggle for equality, and who have done it in a peaceful, courageous manner."

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.

Norwegian Peace Initiative

Friday, January 6, 1967
Oslo, Norway, NORWAY, VIETNAM, Washington, D.C.

Five Norwegians concerned about the Vietnam conflict propose that winners of the Nobel Peace Prize form a negotiating delegation to visit the US and Hanoi governments.

Program from Community Salute to MLK: Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Thursday, December 17, 1964
New York, NY

This program is from the Community Salute to Dr. King that occured in New York City following his being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

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.

Entering 1964: Toward Full Emancipation

Tuesday, December 17, 1963
Birmingham, AL, Philadelphia, PA

In this draft of an article for the NY Amsterdam News, Dr. King asserts that the thrust of the Negro will increase toward full emancipation as they began the year 1964. Dr. King highlights the March on Washington where both Negroes and whites collectively demonstrated the need for self-respect and human dignity in the United States. He also elaborates on the technique of "selective patronage" to broaden the economic and employment opportunities for the African American community.

Telegram from Ralph Abernathy to John F. Kennedy

Thursday, June 13, 1963
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Washington, D.C.

Rev. Ralph Abernathy accepts President John F. Kennedy’s invitation to meet and discuss the civil rights problem.

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.

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.

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.

Letter from MLK to Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa

Monday, April 12, 1965
Washington, D.C.

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.

Letter from Jay Richard Kennedy to MLK

Monday, October 28, 1963
New York (NY), New York, NY, Washington, D.C.

Jay Kennedy encloses a copy of a picture and a transcript from a television program that included Dr. King. He thanks Dr. King for an earlier letter and explains that their views are aligned. Kennedy also briefly discusses civil rights in America and the federal government.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Tuesday, January 1, 1974
Georgia (GA), Atlanta, GA, California (CA), Los Angeles, CA, Washington, D.C., New York (NY), New York, NY

This document is regarding the celebration of the Birthday Anniversary of the late Dr. King. The author states, "While the national holiday legislation is pending in Congress, masses of people everywhere already personally declare the date to be their own to honor one of history's greatest leaders."

I Have A Dream

South Carolina (SC), Georgia (GA), Mississippi (MS), Louisiana (LA), Alabama (AL)

In the most famous of his speeches, given from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Dr. King drew on themes from previous sermons and speeches, including an address he called The American Dream. Citing Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, the US Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence, King calls upon the nation to fulfill its promise of freedom and justice for all of its citizens. Although he began by reading from a manuscript, he later abandoned it and spoke directly to the crowd of more than 200,000.

President Kennedy's Record

Friday, February 9, 1962
New York (NY), New York, NY, Washington, D.C.

In this February 1962 column for the New York Amsterdam News, Dr. King acknowledges President Kennedy's appointment of Negroes and executive order ending employment discrimination. But he calls the President “cautious and defensive” in providing strong leadership in civil rights and criticizes him for not ordering an end to discrimination in federally-assisted housing.

MLK Postcard - American Negro Emancipation Centennial

Wednesday, January 1, 1964
Ohio (OH), Montgomery, AL, Pennsylvania (PA), Boston, MA, Washington, D.C.

The American Negro Emancipation Centennial issued this 1964 postcard containing Dr. King's brief biography. The postcard was designed to be used as a study guide in Negro history.

Letter from Josephine Baker to MLK

Saturday, August 31, 1963
FRANCE

Josephine Baker expresses her admiration for Dr. King as a great leader and articulates her commitment to the Civil Rights Movement.

Who They are and Why They Struck

South Carolina (SC)

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

MLK in Memoriam

Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania (PA), VIETNAM, Georgia (GA)

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