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

Monday, November 16, 1953
Montgomery, AL, Boston, MA, Alabama (AL), Massachusetts (MA), North Carolina (NC)

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

Letter from Dimitri Papaspyrou to MLK

Thursday, January 26, 1967
GREECE, Atlanta, GA

Dimitri Papaspyrou, President of the Parliament, invites Dr. King to Greece to create a better understanding between Greek and American people.

Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution

Sunday, August 1, 1965
INDIA, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, Alabama (AL), Mississippi (MS), Selma, AL, Birmingham, AL

Dr. King delivers the commencement address at Oberlin College in Ohio on June 14, 1965. Nothing is more tragic, he says, than sleeping through a significant period of social change by failing to adopt the new mental attitudes that the new situation demands. He suggests that to remain awake through a great revolution one must embrace a global perspective and work for peace, racial justice, economic justice and brotherhood throughout the world.

Remarks by MLK at the Freedom House Annual Dinner

Tuesday, November 26, 1963
Birmingham, AL, Alabama (AL), Mississippi (MS), Texas (TX)

Dr. King expresses his appreciation for being honored by Freedom House. He also pays tribute to the life and work of John F. Kennedy while encourging others to honor his memory through their dedication to civil rights.

March on Washington Lincoln Memorial Program

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

This document outlines the program held at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Campaign for a World Constitution Leaflet

New York, NY, New Jersey (NJ), Illinois (IL), New York (NY), SWITZERLAND, ITALY, NETHERLANDS, INDIA

This pamphlet announces a World Constitutional Convention to be held in Switzerland. Dr. King, who was among the signers of a "Call for a Constitutional Convention," is quoted in the leaflet stating that a world government would lessen tensions.

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

Catholic Interracial Council Newsletter Honoring MLK

Sunday, March 7, 1965
Iowa (IA), California (CA), Illinois (IL), Chicago, IL

This 1965 newsletter from the Catholic Interracial Council honors Dr. King with the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award.

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.

Letter from Eleanor Roosevelt to MLK

Saturday, March 31, 1962
New York, NY, Illinois (IL)

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.

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."

The Strength of the Legacy

Sunday, November 22, 1964
Philadelphia, PA, Pennsylvania (PA), Mississippi (MS), Florida (FL)

In this New York Herald Tribune article, Dr. King refers to the recent 1964 Presidential election as a decisive repudiation of segregation and extremism. He claims the election results honored the memory of President John F. Kennedy, assassinated a year earlier. Kennedy’s greatest contribution to human rights, King says, was his televised appeal to the American people on June 19, 1963 describing equal rights and equal opportunity as a moral issue as old as the scriptures and as clear as the Constitution.

Slum Building Seized

Illinois (IL), Chicago, IL

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

Appeal to the President of the United States

Thursday, May 17, 1962
Washington, D.C.

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.

SCLC Action Committee Meeting

Sunday, February 11, 1968
St. Augustine, FL, Florida (FL), Alabama (AL), Selma, AL, California (CA), South Dakota (SD), New York (NY), Philadelphia, PA, Washington, D.C., Chicago, IL

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.

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.

Letter from Chuck Barris to MLK

Tuesday, May 4, 1965
Montgomery, AL, California (CA), Selma, AL

Chuck Barris has received national monetary support for the truck rentals used for the Selma to Montgomery March.

Strength to Love

Sunday, August 11, 1963
New York, NY, New York (NY), London, England, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

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.

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.

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.

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."

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.

MLK's Transcript from Crozer Theological Seminary

Wednesday, December 6, 1950
Pennsylvania (PA)

In 1948, Dr. King entered Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania. Engaging in a sincere quest for knowledge, he sought stimulation in the works of several prominent areas, like philosophy and theology. As a result of his efforts and achievements at Crozer, Dr. King was chosen as the Valedictorian of the graduating class of 1951.

New Wine in New Bottles

Dr. King outlines a sermon he preached at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery on October 17, 1954. His text is Matthew 9:17. He compares new ideas to new wine, stating that an idea cannot progress if people are not ready to accept it; this is what it means for an idea to be before its time. New ideas require new structures to contain them. The same is true in our personal lives when we resolve to rid ourselves of bad habits.

Letter from Marie L. Jones Regarding Reverend Ashton Jones

Wednesday, September 25, 1963
Cleveland, OH, California (CA), Los Angeles, CA, New York (NY), Mississippi (MS), Washington, D.C., Atlanta, GA, Georgia (GA)

Mary L. Jones sent out this letter reporting on the plight of her husband, Reverend Ashton Jones, who was arrested in July of 1963 for attempting to lead an interracial student group into a service at the segregated First Baptist Church of Atlanta. Reverend Jones was sentenced to a year in the Georgia state prison and six months of hard labor for the crime of "disturbing a worship service." Mrs. Jones encourages readers of her letter to heed the advice of British social critic Bertrand Russell, by writing an "avalanche of letters" to those responsible.

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.

People to People: The Negro Looks at Africa

Saturday, December 8, 1962
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, New York, NY, Memphis, TN, WESTERN SAHARA, Tennessee (TN), South Africa

In his column in the New York Amsterdam News, Dr. King reports on the American Negro Leadership Conference on Africa that brought together a cross-section of the Negro community to discuss foreign policy toward Africa. He writes that colonialism and segregation are siblings and that the future of the emerging nations of Africa and the American Negro are interrelated. He speaks of the contradictions in policy toward Africa, the need for more Negroes in the diplomatic corps, and the importance of action by the Administration against racism at home and racism in US foreign policy.

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

Wednesday, February 28, 1968
LIBERIA, Chicago, IL

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

Letter from Ella Jackson to MLK

Monday, February 5, 1968

Miss Ella Jackson, a 7th grader, writes to Dr. King concerning his leadership and involvement in civil disobedience. She advises Dr. King to speak to someone in power, otherwise his actions will lead to war.

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.