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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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Donation from United States Trust Company

Tuesday, February 6, 1968
New York (NY), New York, NY

Franklin D. Roosevelt III arranges to have one thousand dollars sent to the SCLC.

Letter from Bayard Rustin to MLK

Friday, July 7, 1967
Cleveland, OH

Bayard Rustin informs Dr. King that Sydney Vincent, the Executive Director of the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland, would like to gather the major Jewish organizational leaders to discuss Dr. King's work in Cleveland, Ohio.

Telegram from Lawrence F. O'Brien to MLK

Thursday, August 5, 1965
Washington, D.C.

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

Postcard Congratulating MLK for Receiving the Nobel Prize

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Louise Dekker-Brus congratulates Dr. King on the Nobel Peace Prize and writes that their newspaper says that, in King, America has its Joan of Arc.

Certificate Honoring MLK

Friday, March 31, 1967

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

Letter from Jackie Robinson to MLK

Tuesday, October 9, 1962
New York (NY)

Jackie Robinson writes Dr. King to accept a position of responsibility with the SCLC.

Birmingham Manifesto

Birmingham, AL

This manifesto details the methods, accomplishments, failures and reasons for the use and postponement of direct action tactics in Birmingham, Alabama.

Letter from Josephine Baker to MLK

Saturday, August 31, 1963
FRANCE

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

Draft of SCLC 1964 Annual Report

Atlanta, GA, Washington, D.C.

This is a draft of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference 1964 Annual Report. The document outlines developments that occurred in pursuits such as voter registration and Operation Breadbasket. The piece concludes with commentary on the future of the organization, specifically "deeper involvement in political action."

Ebenezer Baptist Church Apartment Complex

Wednesday, September 13, 1967
North Carolina (NC)

Ralph D. Abernathy informs Mr. J. Lafayette Morgan that he is unable to supply the information Mr. Morgan requested.

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.

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.

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.

Excerpt from The Drum Major Instinct

This passage quotes one of Dr. King's acclaimed sermons delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. He defines the desire to lead as "the Drum Major instinct." Seeing himself as a Drum Major for justice, peace, and righteousness, Dr. King posits what should be said at his funeral.

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.

Anonymous Letter to MLK

Alabama (AL), Mississippi (MS), ISRAEL

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.

Transcripts for Courses at Harvard University

Thursday, August 13, 1953
Cambridge, MA, Massachusetts (MA)

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 Vice President Johnson to MLK

Friday, April 27, 1962
Washington, D.C., Atlanta, GA

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.

King's Way Hurts Rights Movement

Washington, D.C., Massachusetts (MA), Illinois (IL), Chicago, IL

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 Joan Daves to Dora MacDonald

Tuesday, May 12, 1964
New York (NY), New York, NY

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.

The Purpose of Religion

Dr. King argues that the purpose of religion is not to "perpetuate a dogma," but to create witnesses to the power of God. He also considers whether salvation comes from upholding a particular creed or whether it comes from an individual reconciling with God.

Statement by MLK Regarding His Five-Day Jail Sentence in Birmingham

Monday, October 30, 1967
Georgia (GA), Alabama (AL), Birmingham, AL, Washington, D.C., UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Dr. King releases a statement regarding his return to Birmingham, Alabama to serve a five-day jail sentence. He states that he is happy to serve the sentence, but sad that the Supreme Court did not "uphold the rights of individual citizens." He also questions why the United States' resources are being used to fund the Vietnam War rather than to help the poor.

Telegram from Civil Rights Leaders to President Kennedy

Monday, September 16, 1963
Washington, D.C., Atlanta, GA, Birmingham, AL, Georgia (GA), Alabama (AL)

Members of the SCLC and prominent civil rights leaders request an immediate conference with President John F. Kennedy regarding the 1963 Birmingham church bombing.

The False God of Money

Sunday, July 19, 1953

This sermon titled "The False God of Money" was preached by Dr. King on July 19, 1953. Dr. King raised a question to his congregation stating, "Will you serve the transitory god of money which is here today and gone tomorrow or will you serve the eternal God of the universe who is the same yesterday, today and forever?"

Proposal for Preventing Denial of the Right to Vote

Thursday, October 29, 1964
Washington, D.C., Mississippi (MS), Alabama (AL), South Carolina (SC)

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 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.

Ronnie Williams 23rd Anniversary

New Jersey (NJ), Brooklyn, NY

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.

Letter to MLK Requesting Aid

Saturday, September 9, 1967
Chicago, IL, Illinois (IL)

In this plea to Dr. King, Mrs. Venis Whitten asks for assistance with obtaining adequate medical care and welfare, which would tremendously improve the livelihood of herself and her two grandchildren.

This is Dr. King's official transcript from Morehouse College for 1944-1948

Tuesday, November 7, 1950
Atlanta, GA, Georgia (GA)

This is Dr. King's official transcript from Morehouse College from 1944-1948.

Letter from MLK to Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa

Monday, April 12, 1965
Washington, D.C.

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.