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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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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.

Morehouse Introduction to Philosophy Notes

These typed notes from Dr. King’s early years at Morehouse College are for an Introduction to Philosophy course led by Professor Samuel Williams. King outlines the topic of highest ends: motive and standard, changing and unchanging morality, and reason and emotion that determine the standard.

Telegram from MLK to President Kennedy

Dr. King praises President John F. Kennedy for his eloquent appeal for freedom and justice and says the President's message will become "a hallmark in the annals of American history" if his proposed legislation is passed.

Letter from an Asylum Inmate to MLK Seeking Assistance

Monday, May 29, 1967

Paul Douglas Ware, an untried inmate, requests Dr. King's "understanding, moral support, and possible assistance." Mr. Ware informs Dr. King of detailed information regarding his unjust treatment, his personal life, his present state of mind and most importantly his desire to have a stronger bond with "his own people."

The Strength of the Legacy

Sunday, November 22, 1964

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.

A Statement to the South and Nation

This seemingly unexceptional document signifies the birth of the SCLC. Dr. King, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and Rev. C. K. Steele assembled a consortium of leaders in Atlanta following the end of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The Southern Leaders Conference on Transportation and Non-Violent Integration issued this statement that addresses the intimidation, discrimination and economic disparity Negroes face in the South. The statement appeals to the federal government to intervene against assaults that block basic civil rights.

MLK Postcard - American Negro Emancipation Centennial

Wednesday, January 1, 1964

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.

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.

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 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.

Civil Rights Act of 1957

Monday, September 9, 1957

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.

Current Magazine

Thursday, August 1, 1963

This Current Magazine issue on racism in the U.S. features an article "Is Direct Action Necessary" by Dr. King, as well as pieces by James Meredith, James Reston, and others.

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.

Request for Preliminary Determination of Eligibility - Nonprofit

Tuesday, November 7, 1967

This document serves as a request to establish Ebenezer Baptist Church as a Non-Profit Sponsor or Mortgagor.

The Christian Way of Life in Human Relations

Wednesday, December 4, 1957

Dr. King makes a speech to the National Council of Churches regarding the issue of American race relations. After school integration ... has noticed a radical change in the attitudes of African-Americans, ultimately giving birth to this mental and figurative notion of the "new Negro". He solicits the assistance and leadership of the nation's churches to take a firm stand against the rampant inequalities afflicting blacks are facing in America.

Poster: This Store Is Against Equal Opportunities for Negroes

The SCLC placed this type of boycott poster on the storefronts of businesses that refused to provide equal job opportunities to Negroes.

This is SCLC

This SCLC brochure highlights the organization's mission, organizational structure, and initiatives, such as voter registration drives, Citizenship Schools, and the Leadership Training Program.

King's Way Hurts Rights Movement

Mr. White, author of this article, argues that the political fallout from Dr. King's stance on America's involvement in Vietnam hinders the goals of the Civil Rights Movement.

Letter From Birmingham City Jail

Wednesday, May 1, 1963

This version of Dr. King's "Letter From Birmingham Jail," published by the American Friends Service Committee, also includes the original statement made by the clergyman that prompted Dr. King's response. The eight clergymen described Dr. King's actions as "unwise and untimely." In his response, Dr. King references biblical and historical figures to illustrate why the Civil Rights Movement can no longer wait. He also expresses his frustration with many within organized religion and the moderate white American.

Speeches by the Leaders

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

Letter from MLK to South African Embassy

Wednesday, February 9, 1966

Having been invited to South Africa by the National Union of South African Students and the Students' Visiting Lecturers Organization of the University of Cape Town, Dr. King writes the South African Embassy initiating the process of apply for a visa.

Ronnie Williams 23rd Anniversary

This flyer promotes the Ronnie Williams 23rd Anniversary concert at Symphony Hall in Newark. The featured performers include the 5 Blind Boys of Alabama, Shirley Caesar and the Reverend James Cleveland.

Senator Edward Kennedy's Address to SCLC

Monday, August 8, 1966

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) addresses the 1966 SCLC Annual Convention, stating that the sit-ins, freedom rides and Montgomery bus boycott created a movement that brought about the most important change of the last 20 years. He says that while the caste system in politics is over, the life of the average Negro hasn’t changed much. Society is becoming divided rich and poor, black and white, and a massive commitment of national resources must be made to upgrade Negro life in America.

Letter from Joan Daves to Dora MacDonald

Tuesday, May 12, 1964

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.

Transcripts for Courses at Harvard University

Thursday, August 13, 1953

Lois Ryan forwards a transcript for two courses that Dr. King took while studying at Harvard University. These courses were Philosophy of Plate: Introductory and The Philosophy of Whitehead.

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.

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.

I HAVE A DREAM

Text of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech delivered August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D. C.

A Tough Mind and A Tender Heart

Sunday, August 30, 1959

An early foreshadowing of his nonviolent philosophy, Dr. King advises Negroes of a particular course of action they should adhere to in order to properly equip themselves to combat racial injustice. Seeking to avoid both complacency and hostility, he challenges those who desire self-satisfaction, as well as those who seek to pacify their oppressors, by proposing the idea of one having both a tough mind and a tender heart.

Letter from Jay Richard Kennedy to MLK

Monday, October 28, 1963

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.