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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 President Kennedy to MLK

Washington, D.C., Birmingham, AL

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

Current Magazine

Thursday, August 1, 1963
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Washington, D.C., New York (NY), New York, NY, NORTH KOREA, SOUTH KOREA, GERMANY, Berlin, Germany, VIETNAM, Iowa (IA), Des Moines, IA, FORMER SOVIET UNION / USSR, CUBA, Illinois (IL), Chicago, IL, Ohio (OH), Connecticut (CT), Alabama (AL), Birmingham, AL, Louisiana (LA), New Orleans, LA, HUNGARY, Montgomery, AL, South Carolina (SC), JAPAN, Tokyo, Japan, California (CA), Cleveland, OH, UNITED KINGDOM, ISRAEL, DENMARK, FINLAND, NORWAY, SWEDEN, West Virginia (WV), MEXICO, Arizona (AZ), CHINA, London, England, UZBEKISTAN, Florida (FL), SWITZERLAND, AUSTRIA, BRAZIL, ARGENTINA, CHILE, VENEZUELA, POLAND, CZECH REPUBLIC, UKRAINE

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.

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."

Letter from Eleanor Roosevelt to MLK

Saturday, March 31, 1962
New York, NY, Illinois (IL)

Eleanor Roosevelt invites Dr. King for afternoon tea to discuss ongoing issues in Deerfield, Illinois with Rev. Bletzer and members of the American Freedom of Residence Fund.

Invitation to President Kennedy's Inaugural Concert

Washington, D.C.

This invitation was sent to Dr. and Mrs. King, inviting them to attend a concert celebrating the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. The concert features Mischa Elman, a Russian emigre and famed musician.

Neighborhood Spotlight on Greater Cleveland

Cleveland, OH

This document contains information regarding the Urban League Housing Program, which provides statistical information on the communities in the greater Cleveland, Ohio area.

I've Been to the Mountaintop

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

Dr. King gave this address at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee the night before he was assassinated. He called for nonviolent protest and a boycott of Memphis area businesses in support of the Memphis Sanitation Workers strike. Conveying a sense of foreboding, he not only recounted a near-death experience when he was stabbed near the heart, but also spoke of the possibility of his own demise at the hands of those who opposed him.

Slum Building Seized

Illinois (IL), Chicago, IL

This article includes multiple viewpoints regarding Dr. King and the seizure of a slum building in Chicago.

Man's Struggle for Freedom

Sunday, June 25, 1967
Chicago, IL, Montgomery, AL, Mississippi (MS), Selma, AL, Wisconsin (WI)

The "Chicago Tribune" reviews Dr. King's book "Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?"

Civil-Righters Isolation

Saturday, April 1, 1967
Washington, D.C., California (CA), BAHAMAS, Mississippi (MS), VIETNAM, Texas (TX), UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, New York (NY), Arizona (AZ)

David Lawrence states that the recent initiatives of Negro leaders are hindering the overall mission of the Civil Rights Movement. He believes that Negro groups are defeating their own cause.

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.

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.

Letter from Richard Nixon to MLK

Tuesday, September 17, 1957
Washington, D.C., Montgomery, AL

Vice President Nixon writes to Dr. King concerning the efficiency and effectiveness of the Civil Rights Bill. He expresses his gratitude for a previous correspondence from Dr. King and ensures his continued advocacy of civil rights legislation.

MLK Draft Text Retrieved by T.D. Johnston

Alabama (AL), INDIA, Mississippi (MS), Georgia (GA), GERMANY, SOUTH AFRICA, Montgomery, AL, Jackson, MS

The document is a dedication from T. D. Johnston of Huntsville, Alabama to the King Center. Mr. Johnston acknowledges being on an Eastern Airline plane with Dr. King in 1961, where he noticed that Dr. King tossed a speech text that he found. He decided to hold on to the document for preservation and donated it to the King Center. Martin Luther King, III received the document on behalf of the King Center.

Invitation to President Kennedy's Inaugural Ball

Washington, D.C.

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

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.

Transcript of National Educational Television's For Freedom Now

Tuesday, July 23, 1963
Chicago, IL, Montgomery, AL, Birmingham, AL, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Washington, D.C., Illinois (IL), Alabama (AL), New York, NY, New York (NY), Ohio (OH), Louisiana (LA), Mississippi (MS), CUBA, HUNGARY

For Freedom Now, with host Dr. Kenneth Clark, is television’s first exchange of ideas by the leaders of five organizations engaged in securing full civil rights for Negroes. Featured guests are Dr. King of SCLC, Whitney Young of the National Urban League, James Farmer of CORE, James Forman of SNCC, and Roy Wilkins of the NAACP.

People In Action: Birmingham, U.S.A.

Birmingham, AL, Johannesburg, South Africa, New York, NY

In this first of a two-part article for the New York Amsterdam News, Dr. King writes about the circumstances surrounding SCLC’s decision to develop Project C, a campaign confronting racial injustice in Birmingham. Three factors led to the decision. First, the city was the home of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, SCLC’s strongest affiliate. Second, Birmingham represented the hard-core segregationist South. And third, the South’s largest industrial center was suffering economically from the loss of vital industry and its poor image on race relations.

MLK - Justice Without Violence

Wednesday, April 3, 1957
Massachusetts (MA)

Dr. King gave this 1957 address to the Institute of Adult Education at Brandeis University in Boston, Massachusetts.

Program from Community Salute to MLK: Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Thursday, December 17, 1964
New York, NY

This program is from the Community Salute to Dr. King that occured in New York City following his being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Letter from SNCC Executive Committee to MLK

Sunday, March 7, 1965
Selma, AL, Alabama (AL)

John Lewis and Silas Norman of SNCC write Dr. King to address their organization's grievances with the SCLC, specifically the SCLC's lack of cooperation in the Selma Voting Rights campaign. Members of SNCC state their disagreement with the march planned for March 7, 1965 because "the objectives of the march do not justify the danger and the resources involved." Lewis and Norman request a meeting with Dr. King to discuss reconciliation between SNCC and the SCLC.

Letter from Chauncey Eskridge to David Acton

Tuesday, November 21, 1967
Illinois (IL), Chicago, IL, Pennsylvania (PA), Philadelphia, PA, Washington, D.C.

This letter from Chauncey Eskridge to David Acton request the Leeds & Northrup Foundation provide a grant to the Southern Christian Leadership Foundation. Chauncey Eskridge includes a tax exempt letter and a copy of the trust instrument outlining the creation of the Southern Christian Leadership Foundation. Both Dr. King and Mr. Bernard Jackson received a copy of this letter.

People In Action: The Complete Life

Saturday, April 27, 1963
Birmingham, AL, New York (NY)

Dr. King was in jail in Birmingham and unable to contribute his regular column to the New York Amsterdam News. The editors published these excerpts from a sermon he had recently given at Riverside Church on "The Dimensions of a Complete Life."

Letter from Bible Student to MLK

ISRAEL

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

Draft Introduction for "Why We Can't Wait"

Atlanta, GA, New York (NY), New York, NY, Birmingham, AL, Washington, D.C., Montgomery, AL

This document is a draft of the introduction for Dr. King's book, "Why We Can't Wait." Dr. King uses various African American children stories to explain that one cannot afford to wait for justice.

Telegram from Nobel Committee to MLK

Wednesday, October 14, 1964
Atlanta, GA, Georgia (GA)

The Nobel Committee of Norwegian Parliament notifies Dr. King that he will be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 1964.

An Open Letter to Free Americans

Memphis, TN, Birmingham, AL, Washington, D.C.

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

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.

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.

Letter from an Asylum Inmate to MLK Seeking Assistance

Monday, May 29, 1967
Pennsylvania (PA), Philadelphia, PA, Georgia (GA), Hartford, CT, Connecticut (CT)

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."