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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 Bible Student to MLK

The bible student who wrote this letter used biblical references to justify segregation and to persuade Dr. King to cease civil rights demonstrations.

The Man Who Was a Fool

The sermon "The Man Who Was a Fool," was published in the June 1961 issue of the journal The Pulpit. Dr. King delivered the sermon in both Chicago and Detroit in early 1961.

An Interview With MLK

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."

Draft of I Have a Dream

Wednesday, August 28, 1963

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.

Letter from A. Phillip Randolph to MLK

Tuesday, April 7, 1964

Mr. Randolph addresses his concerns with current events that could potentially harm the Civil Rights Movement. His list of developments includes Malcolm X's promotion of rifle clubs, the use of propaganda tactics to separate white people from the Civil Rights Movement, the increasing totalitarian influence on protest groups in northern cities and demagogic leadership that creates confusion and frustration. Mr. Randolph requests a meeting to discuss how to address these issues.

People in Action: Unknown Heroes

Thursday, May 10, 1962

This New York Amsterdam News article by Dr. King introduces two unknown heroes of the Civil Rights Movement in the South, Esau Jenkins and Billy Fleming. Jenkins taught the riders on his buses how to read and write so they could qualify to vote. This idea was the basis for SCLC's Citizenship School program. Fleming, an undertaker in Clarendon County, South Carolina, was a leader in the Briggs v. Elliott school desegregation lawsuit, the earliest of five suits to be combined in the US Supreme Court?s landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.

SCLC Resolution on Afro-American Unity

Thursday, August 17, 1967

In this resolution approved at its Tenth Annual Convention, SCLC affirms the need for Afro-American unity. The organization commits to conduct regional unity conferences involving all sectors of the Negro community, hold Identity Workshops on history and culture, and develop economic and political power so that Negroes can own and control their own communities. The resolution concludes by affirming the importance of black spiritual power, economic power, and political power.

ABC's Issues and Answers: MLK Interview

Sunday, June 18, 1967

Dr. King sat down with Tom Jerriel, Atlanta Bureau Chief, and John Casserly, Washington Correspondent, of the American Broadcasting Company for their program "Issues and Answers." They discussed the civil rights movement, Dr. King's upcoming book, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that Dr. King would serve jail time in Birmingham.

Letter From Vice President Johnson to MLK

Friday, April 27, 1962

Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson wrote this note to Dr. King to respectfully decline his invitation to a luncheon and to serve on the board of directors of the Gandhi Society for Human Rights. He states he enjoyed their last meeting and is looking forward to the next one.

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

Monday, November 16, 1953

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

Telegram from MLK to Muhammad Ali

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

Letter from Dora McDonald to Bill Daniels

Friday, September 29, 1967

Dora McDonald writes Bill Daniels, of WSB-TV, expressing outrage over a cartoon depicting overt racism in a court of law.

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.

If I Can Help Somebody

These are the words to a song written in 1945 by Alma Bazel Androzzo that was made famous by gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. Dr. King quotes this song in his Drum Major Instinct sermon delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church on February 4, 1968.

Letter from Dimitri Papaspyrou to MLK

Thursday, January 26, 1967

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

SCLC Press Release, Poor People's Campaign

Monday, March 4, 1968

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."

Certificate Honoring MLK

Friday, March 31, 1967

This certificate serves to honor MLK for his contributions "in the field of racial relations."

Reverend Ralph D. Abernathy's Statement Following MLK's Assasination

Sunday, April 7, 1968

Rev. Abernathy acknowledges the deep pain and anger those in SCLC feel at the senseless taking of Dr. King’s life. They pledge that his work and commitment to nonviolence will continue. They are as much against violence, says Abernathy, as they are against racial and economic injustice. He announces that Mrs. King will join him in leading a march in Memphis in support of the sanitation workers and that the Poor People’s Campaign will proceed. He calls upon Congress to respond to the major loss represented by Dr.

Letter from A. Philip Randolph to President Lyndon Johnson

Tuesday, July 18, 1967

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.

Letter from John R. Yungblut to CSK

Monday, August 2, 1965

Mr. Yungblut of Quaker House, writes Mrs. King to inquire whether the King Children may be interested in participating in a youth dramatics program.

MLK Speech at NAACP Sponsored Rally for Civil Rights

Sunday, July 10, 1960

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

Preferred Risk Mutual Insurance Company

Monday, April 3, 1967

The manager of Preferred Risk Mutual Auto, D.G. Witt, sends an insurance renewal request to Dr. King with policies and surcharge information. He explains that the companies decision to renew his policy was one of deep consideration due to the numerous car accidents during Dr. King's policy with the company.

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.

SCLC Tenth Anniversary Convention

Monday, August 14, 1967

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

Telegram from MLK to President Kennedy

Thursday, March 29, 1962

Dr. King recommends that President John F. Kennedy consider William H. Hastie and Thurgood Marshall for appointment to the US Supreme Court.

MLK Remarks on Negro Press Week

Monday, February 10, 1958

In this transcribed radio address, Dr. King describes how future generations will remember the 20th century as a time where righteous people fought for social, economic, and political freedom. Dr. King also states that the African-American fight for true citizenship is not only a part of American heritage, but also the story of people everywhere who struggle for dignity and freedom. Dr. King made this radio address for Negro Press week a the request of Louisville Defender Editor and National Newspaper Publishers Association board member Frank Stanley.

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 Elijah Muhammed

Monday, August 14, 1967

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.

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.

An Open Letter to Free Americans

In response to Dr. King's assassination, the author urges "Free Americans" to join the fight against racism.