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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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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.

Bold Design for a New South

Saturday, March 30, 1963
Georgia (GA), Albany, GA, Mississippi (MS), North Carolina (NC)

Dr. King notes that civil rights has been replaced as the "Number One" domestic issue, dwarfed by the Cuban missile crisis, trade legislation and tax reform. He attributes this to public acceptance of tokenism as well as an overly cautious administration. While acknowledging that the administration has made greater efforts on civil rights than previous ones, Dr. King says the progress is constricted and confined.

Draft Introduction for "Why We Can't Wait"

Atlanta, GA, New York (NY), New York, NY, Birmingham, AL, Washington, D.C., Montgomery, AL

This document is a draft of the introduction for Dr. King's book, "Why We Can't Wait." Dr. King uses various African American children stories to explain that one cannot afford to wait for justice.

Draft of I Have a Dream

Wednesday, August 28, 1963
Washington, D.C.

This version of Dr. King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech reveals important changes to ideas and phrases that Dr. King chose either to alter or omit completely the day he addressed the throng gathered before the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Dr. King's argument against the "normalcy" of bigotry remained a key message on the day he took the podium.

The Modern Negro Activist

Montgomery, AL, GHANA, NIGERIA, KENYA, CONGO / ZAIRE, Alabama (AL), California (CA), Cambridge, MA, Massachusetts (MA)

Dr. King profiles the emergent young Negro civil rights activist who is college-educated, creative, brave and committed to the discipline of non-violence. He attributes the activist's diligence to a keen awareness that they inhabit a world on the cusp of positive social change and that they will have the privilege to direct that change. They are no longer to be an imitator of his white counterpart, but rather an initiator and leader in this new age.

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.

Postcard from Dekker Family

NETHERLANDS

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

People In Action: The Complete Life

Saturday, April 27, 1963
Birmingham, AL, New York (NY)

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."

SCLC Meeting Agenda

Birmingham, AL, New York (NY), Atlanta, GA, Alabama (AL), Georgia (GA)

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

MLK Speech at NAACP Sponsored Rally for Civil Rights

Sunday, July 10, 1960
Los Angeles, CA, Georgia (GA), Washington, D.C.

Dr. King gives a speech in which he addresses a myriad of issues on the subject of civil rights.

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.

Morehouse College's Standing Among 192 Colleges

Georgia (GA), Atlanta, GA

This document ranks Morehouse College against other colleges in a variety of areas, including endowment, number of Ph.D's on the faculty, and graduates with Ph.D's.

MLK Public Statement on the Poor People's Campaign

Monday, December 4, 1967
Atlanta, GA, Georgia (GA), Washington, D.C., UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Mississippi (MS), Selma, AL, Alabama (AL), Birmingham, AL

Dr. King announces several initiatives of the SCLC. He explains that due to severe displays of discrimination the SCLC and other organizations will continue the non-violent movement with a demonstration in Washington, D.C. Dr. King further paints the picture of inequality among the races by providing several illustrations of discrimination.

Letter to Dorothy Height from Dora McDonald

Thursday, January 5, 1967
New York, NY, New York (NY)

Dora McDonald apologizes to Dorothy Height, President of the National Council of Negro Women, for not responding sooner to let her know that Dr. and Mrs. King would be unable to attend the Premier Life Membership Dinner. The invitation to the dinner came during Dr. King's sabbatical to write a new book.

Program for SCLC Annual Freedom Banquet

Monday, August 8, 1966
Mississippi (MS), Jackson, MS, Massachusetts (MA)

This program from SCLC's Tenth Annual Freedom Banquet features Senator Edward M. Kennedy as guest speaker.

The Birth of a New Nation

GHANA, Alabama (AL)

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

SCLC Tenth Anniversary Convention

Monday, August 14, 1967
Atlanta, GA

A program outlining the course of events for the 10th Anniversary Convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

We Would See Jesus

Sunday, May 7, 1967
Georgia (GA), Atlanta, GA, GREECE

Dr. King gives this sermon to a congregation at Ebenezer Baptist Church. He conveys a message of Christ's acceptance of all despite any person's wrong doings in the past. He also points out that Christ's work is exemplified through individual acts of kindness and helping others.

Letter from Richard Nixon to MLK

Tuesday, September 17, 1957
Washington, D.C., Montgomery, AL

Vice President Nixon writes to Dr. King concerning the efficiency and effectiveness of the Civil Rights Bill. He expresses his gratitude for a previous correspondence from Dr. King and ensures his continued advocacy of civil rights legislation.

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.

Letter from A. Philip Randolph to President Lyndon Johnson

Tuesday, July 18, 1967
Washington, D.C., New York, NY, New Jersey (NJ)

A. Philip Randolph, the President of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (an AFL-CIO affiliate), writes to President Johnson to urge him to convene a small group of national civil rights leaders to advise local leaders and businessmen on how to deal with the escalation of riots occurring all over the country.

Speeches by the Leaders

Washington, D.C., UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ISRAEL, Alabama (AL), Birmingham, AL, Illinois (IL), Virginia (VA), Mississippi (MS), Georgia (GA), Albany, GA, Chicago, IL, Michigan (MI), Detroit, MI, Pennsylvania (PA), Philadelphia, PA, Jackson, MS, Massachusetts (MA), Cambridge, MA, GERMANY, Berlin, Germany, Boston, MA, New York (NY), New York, NY, Louisiana (LA), New Orleans, LA, California (CA), Arkansas (AR), Little Rock, AR, Maine (ME), South Carolina (SC), New Hampshire (NH), Colorado (CO), Tennessee (TN)

In this booklet, the NAACP compiled famous speeches from the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Included are speeches from A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, James Farmer, Rev. Eugene Carson Blake, Rabbi Joachim Prinz, Whitney M. Young, Matthew Ahmann, John Lewis, Walter Reuther, and Dr. King. The booklet concludes with a pledge and a picture of the throng of supporters that attended the event. test

MLK Draft Text Retrieved by T.D. Johnston

Alabama (AL), INDIA, Mississippi (MS), Georgia (GA), GERMANY, SOUTH AFRICA, Montgomery, AL, Jackson, MS

The document is a dedication from T. D. Johnston of Huntsville, Alabama to the King Center. Mr. Johnston acknowledges being on an Eastern Airline plane with Dr. King in 1961, where he noticed that Dr. King tossed a speech text that he found. He decided to hold on to the document for preservation and donated it to the King Center. Martin Luther King, III received the document on behalf of the King Center.

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.

Civil Rights Act of 1957

Monday, September 9, 1957
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Washington, D.C.

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.

John F. Kennedy Award Dinner for MLK

Thursday, October 1, 1964
Chicago, IL

The Catholic Interracial Council sponsors the John F. Kennedy Dinner for Dr. King. The Master of Ceremonies will be Sister Mary William and will take place at the Pick-Congress Hotel.

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.

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."

People In Action: Birmingham, U.S.A.

Birmingham, AL, Johannesburg, South Africa, New York, NY

In this first of a two-part article for the New York Amsterdam News, Dr. King writes about the circumstances surrounding SCLC’s decision to develop Project C, a campaign confronting racial injustice in Birmingham. Three factors led to the decision. First, the city was the home of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, SCLC’s strongest affiliate. Second, Birmingham represented the hard-core segregationist South. And third, the South’s largest industrial center was suffering economically from the loss of vital industry and its poor image on race relations.

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.