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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 to Dorothy Height from Dora McDonald

Thursday, January 5, 1967
New York, NY, New York (NY)

Dora McDonald apologizes to Dorothy Height, President of the National Council of Negro Women, for not responding sooner to let her know that Dr. and Mrs. King would be unable to attend the Premier Life Membership Dinner. The invitation to the dinner came during Dr. King's sabbatical to write a new book.

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

Sunday, April 7, 1968
Memphis, TN, Washington, D.C., Tennessee (TN)

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.

Telegram from Robert F. Kennedy to SCLC

Monday, September 24, 1962
Washington, D.C.

On the occasion of SCLC’s Annual Convention, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy states that the country has made great strides toward the realization of SCLC’s goal of assuring the rights of citizenship to all. The Department of Justice has acted and will continue to act to protect the right to vote.

Who They are and Why They Struck

South Carolina (SC)

This article stresses the unfair treatment of twenty-two Claussen Bakery workers. This article also addresses why the workers went on strike.

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.

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.

MLK Public Statement on the Poor People's Campaign

Monday, December 4, 1967
Atlanta, GA, Georgia (GA), Washington, D.C., UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Mississippi (MS), Selma, AL, Alabama (AL), Birmingham, AL

Dr. King announces several initiatives of the SCLC. He explains that due to severe displays of discrimination the SCLC and other organizations will continue the non-violent movement with a demonstration in Washington, D.C. Dr. King further paints the picture of inequality among the races by providing several illustrations of discrimination.

This is SCLC

New Orleans, LA, Birmingham, AL, Montgomery, AL, South Carolina (SC), Georgia (GA), Memphis, TN, Mississippi (MS), Virginia (VA), Louisiana (LA), Alabama (AL), Atlanta, GA, Tennessee (TN)

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

Preferred Risk Mutual Insurance Company

Monday, April 3, 1967
Atlanta, GA, Georgia (GA)

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.

President Kennedy's Record

Friday, February 9, 1962
New York (NY), New York, NY, Washington, D.C.

In this February 1962 column for the New York Amsterdam News, Dr. King acknowledges President Kennedy's appointment of Negroes and executive order ending employment discrimination. But he calls the President “cautious and defensive” in providing strong leadership in civil rights and criticizes him for not ordering an end to discrimination in federally-assisted housing.

Letter from Benjamin E. Mays to MLK

Thursday, May 7, 1964
Atlanta, GA

Morehouse College President Benjamin E. Mays writes Dr. King to ask him to consider donating his papers to the Atlanta University Center Library as an alternative to Boston University.

Economic and Social Bill of Rights

Tuesday, February 6, 1968
VIETNAM

The SCLC calls for an economic and social bill of rights to demand the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for African Americans. It would include the right of every employable citizen to a decent job, the right of every citizen to a minimum income, the right to a decent house in a neighborhood of choice, the right to an adequate education, the right to health care, and the right to full participation in decision-making.

Text of Speech Delivered at Lincoln Memorial

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

This speech, given by Dr. King at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C, brings attention to the current state of oppression of Negro men and women in 1963.

Copyright Agreement for MLK’s Nobel Lecture

Oslo, Norway, NORWAY, Stockholm, Sweden

This is the Copyright Assignment Agreement established between Dr. King and the Nobel Foundation.

Chicago Nonviolent Action Proposal

Chicago, IL, Mississippi (MS), Alabama (AL), Tennessee (TN), Indiana (IN), Louisville, KY, Atlanta, GA, Birmingham, AL, Selma, AL, Montgomery, AL, New York (NY), New York, NY, Illinois (IL), Kentucky (KY), Pennsylvania (PA), Philadelphia, PA

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.

Speeches by the Leaders

Washington, D.C., UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ISRAEL, Alabama (AL), Birmingham, AL, Illinois (IL), Virginia (VA), Mississippi (MS), Georgia (GA), Albany, GA, Chicago, IL, Michigan (MI), Detroit, MI, Pennsylvania (PA), Philadelphia, PA, Jackson, MS, Massachusetts (MA), Cambridge, MA, GERMANY, Berlin, Germany, Boston, MA, New York (NY), New York, NY, Louisiana (LA), New Orleans, LA, California (CA), Arkansas (AR), Little Rock, AR, Maine (ME), South Carolina (SC), New Hampshire (NH), Colorado (CO), Tennessee (TN)

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

SCLC Newsletter: September 1963

Richmond, VA, Virginia (VA), North Carolina (NC), Georgia (GA), Birmingham, AL, Alabama (AL), Mississippi (MS), New York (NY), California (CA), Ohio (OH), Oregon (OR), Atlanta, GA, Los Angeles, CA, Texas (TX), JAPAN, Tokyo, Japan, Michigan (MI), Pennsylvania (PA)

This issue of the SCLC Newsletter covers the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The publication features a number of photographs, editorials and the full text of Dr. King's Washington address.

The Modern Negro Activist

Montgomery, AL, GHANA, NIGERIA, KENYA, CONGO / ZAIRE, Alabama (AL), California (CA), Cambridge, MA, Massachusetts (MA)

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.

Remarks by MLK in Acceptance of the Spingarn Medal

Friday, June 28, 1957
Michigan (MI), Detroit, MI, Montgomery, AL, Alabama (AL), EGYPT, GHANA, Washington, D.C.

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.

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.

A Knock At Midnight

Sunday, August 9, 1964
Atlanta, GA, New York (NY), New York, NY, New Jersey (NJ), Mississippi (MS), Alabama (AL), Birmingham, AL

In a tape-recorded address to the Riverside Church in New York City, Dr. King compares the civil rights struggle to a parable from St. Luke. His sermon specifically tackles contemporary social issues such as segregation, discrimination, and the philosophy of nonviolence. In addition, Dr. King explores the role of the church in dealing with such problems.

How My Theology Has Changed

Dr. King highlights seven main ways in which his theological views have changed since his final year at Crozer Theological Seminary.

Telegram from Berry Gordy, Jr. to MLK

Detroit, MI, Michigan (MI)

President of Motown Record Corporation, Berry Gordy, Jr., awaits Dr. King's decision on the album, "The Great March on Washington."

An Interview With MLK

Atlanta, GA, Montgomery, AL, New York (NY), Birmingham, AL, Boston, MA

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."

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.

Letter from Benjamin Mays to MLK

Friday, November 29, 1963
Atlanta, GA

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

The Philosophy of Life Undergirding Christianity and The Christian Ministry

In this essay fragment from his Crozer Seminary days, Dr. King writes that Christianity is a value philosophy whose values are embodied in the life of Christ. He begins to spell out what those values are. The first, King states, is the value of the world as something positive and life-affirming, in contrast to the negative view of the world of the ascetics and religions of India. The second value is that of persons, who have supreme worth. People must be used as ends, never as means to ends, although there have been periods in history where Christianity has fallen short.

What is Man?

Sunday, January 12, 1958
Montgomery, AL

Citing views from historical and contemporary figures, Dr. King asserts that the definition of "man" lies somewhere between God and an animal. Dr. King contends that, although man is limited by time and space, humans are not animals, because they have the capacity for rational thought. However, the central theme that Dr. King argues is that humanity is inherently evil and must constantly strive for high moral standards.

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.

I've Been To The Mountaintop

Wednesday, April 3, 1968
Memphis, TN, Birmingham, AL

"I've Been to the Mountaintop" is the last speech Dr. King delivered. A day after making this address at the Masonic Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, he was assassinated on the balcony of his hotel room. Dr. King spoke of faith, nonviolent protest and his support of the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike. He urged both a march and a boycott against Memphis area businesses. Dr. King ended his speech by musing about his previous brush with death and other threats against him.