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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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MLK Memorandum on SCLC Direct Action Plans

In this confidential memorandum, Dr. King outlines SCLC’s direct action program for Birmingham, Alabama and Danville, Virginia. For each community, he states the challenges, defines goals, and then provides detailed steps to be taken and also staff assignments. He promises to outline his plan for Montgomery, Alabama in a few days.

Chicago Nonviolent Action Proposal

SCLC's proposal for a nonviolent action campaign in Chicago identifies the city as the prototype for the northern urban race problem. The proposal includes a snapshot of the situation in Chicago, past approaches, SCLC?s philosophy of social change, a description of twelve different aspects of the problem of economic exploitation, and a plan and timetable for mobilizing forces. Objectives are stated for the federal, state, and local levels. SCLC proposes to work in collaboration with the Coordinating Council of Community Organizations.

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.

Program for the SCLC Mass Meeting

Wednesday, October 1, 1958

This program is for a SCLC Mass Meeting that took place, at the Norfok Municipal Auditorium, on October 1, 1958.

Ralph David Abernathy: A Man of the People

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference published this booklet profiling Ralph David Abernathy. The articles describe his background, how he got involved in the Civil Rights Movement and the future of the SCLC under his leadership.

Letter from United States Congress to MLK

Friday, September 22, 1967

Joseph McDade writes Dr. King to solicit his views regarding the affects of organized crime on the plight of the urban poor.

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.

We Would See Jesus

Sunday, May 7, 1967

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.

Presidential Invitation to White House Luncheon

Tuesday, June 5, 1962

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.

March on Washington Address by Eugene Carson Blake

Wednesday, August 28, 1963

Rev Dr. Eugene Carson Blake, Vice Chairman of the Commission on Religion and Race of the National Council of Churches, addresses the March on Washington. He states that if all the clergy and church members he represents and all of the Roman Catholics and Jews in America were marching for jobs and freedom for Negroes, the battle for civil rights would be won. Despite the pronouncements of the religious community, the churches and society are still segregated. “Late, late we come,” he says, and in a repentant and reconciling spirit.

Cyprian of Carthage

Dr. King briefly outlines the life of Saint Cyprian of Carthage.

Telegram from President Kennedy to MLK

President John F. Kennedy applauds the work of Dr. King and the SCLC on the occasion of the organization’s Sixth Annual Convention.

Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution

Sunday, August 1, 1965

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 in Acceptance of the Spingarn Medal

Friday, June 28, 1957

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.

Proposal for Preventing Denial of the Right to Vote

Thursday, October 29, 1964

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.

Letter From Birmingham City Jail

Wednesday, May 1, 1963

Dr. King's famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail" is a response to a statement written by several Alabama Clergymen. In that statement, the Clergymen assert that Dr. King's methods are both "unwise and untimely." They brand him an "outside agitator" who should not be advocating the breaking of the law. Dr. King responds with this Letter and politely references Biblical, Classical and early American figures to counter the arguments of the Clergymen.

Invitation to President Kennedy's Inauguration

This invitation was sent to Dr. and Mrs. King, inviting them to the inauguration ceremony of President-elect John F. Kennedy and Vice President-elect Lyndon B. Johnson.

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.

Our God is Able

This is a chapter draft of the sermon for Dr. King’s book Strength to Love. Using Jude 1:24 as his text, Dr. King expounds on his belief that there is a God of power that is able to sustain the universe, conquer the evils of history, and give us the interior resources to face the trials of life. He speaks of his own experience of turning to God when he was exhausted and overcome with fear after a telephone death threat. His inner peace restored, he was able calmly to accept the news three days later that his home had been bombed.

Telegram from Lawrence F. O'Brien to MLK

Thursday, August 5, 1965

Lawrence O'Brien, Special Assistant to President Johnson, invites Dr. King to the signing of the Voting Rights Act in Washington, D.C.

Letter from Josephine Baker to MLK

Saturday, August 31, 1963

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

Letter from MLK to Coretta Scott King

Saturday, October 1, 1960

In an intimate letter to Mrs. King, Dr. King informs her of his recent arrival to the State Prison in Reidsville, Georgia. He urges her "to be strong in faith" as she is also pregnant with their third child at the time. He expresses his hope for a family visit that coming Sunday, and his desire to remain intellectually engaged during his four-month sentence.

Royalty Statement from Joan Daves to MLK

Monday, August 23, 1965

This statement from Dr. King?s literary agent reflects monies earned from the German pocketbook edition of "Why We Can't Wait."

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.

People to People: The Negro Looks at Africa

Saturday, December 8, 1962

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.

Nobel Peace Prize Dinner Program

Monday, January 27, 1964

The citizens of Atlanta held a recognition dinner on January 27, 1965 to honor Dr. King for his Nobel Peace Prize. Tributes were offered by Mayor Ivan Allen, Jr., AME Bishop Ernest Hickman, Rev. Edward Driscoll of the Georgia Council of Churches, State Senator Leroy Johnson, and Roman Catholic Archbishop Paul Hallinan. Dr. King gave the address.

The Modern Negro Activist

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 Benjamin Mays to MLK

Friday, November 29, 1963

Dr. Benjamin E. Mays writes to Dr. King shortly after President Kennedy's assassination to urge him to take precautions.

Bold Design for a New South

Saturday, March 30, 1963

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.