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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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Which Way for the Negro Now?

Monday, May 15, 1967

In his thirteenth civil rights cover story, Newsweek General Editor Peter Goldman reports on a movement in crisis, with fragmented leadership, impatient black followers, and increasingly alienated white supporters. Goldman and reporters interviewed top leadership ranging from the Urban League’s Whitney Young to black power advocate Stokely Carmichael. This article asks what will become of the Negro Revolution.

Telegram from Ralph Abernathy to John F. Kennedy

Thursday, June 13, 1963

Rev. Ralph Abernathy accepts President John F. Kennedy’s invitation to meet and discuss the civil rights problem.

Postcard Congratulating MLK for Receiving the Nobel Prize

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.

MLK - Justice Without Violence

Wednesday, April 3, 1957

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

People In Action: The Complete Life

Saturday, April 27, 1963

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 Robert J. McCracken to MLK

Tuesday, February 4, 1964

Rev. McCracken, of Riverside Church in New York, informs Dr. King that he is scheduled to speak at two identical church services. The Church has added the second service because the New York World?s Fair will be open.

I've Been to the Mountaintop

Wednesday, April 3, 1968

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.

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.

Certificate Honoring MLK

Friday, March 31, 1967

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

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

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.

Telegram from Robert F. Kennedy to SCLC

Monday, September 24, 1962

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.

Letter from Andrew Heiskell to MLK

Tuesday, July 25, 1967

Mr. Heiskell extends an invitation for Dr. King to join Mayors of major cities and other national leaders in forming a coalition to address urban problems.

Letter from SNCC Executive Committee to MLK

Sunday, March 7, 1965

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 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.

Transcript of National Educational Television's For Freedom Now

Tuesday, July 23, 1963

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.

New Wine in Old Bottles

Sunday, January 2, 1966

In a New Year's sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Dr. King addresses Matthew 9:17. His explains that new ideas or inspiration cannot thrive in closed minds or old structures, such as the idea of equality in a segregated society. While Victor Hugo's "idea whose time has come" may be here, Dr. King says, we need to "help time" and overcome the initial resistance to new ideas with persistence and a transformation of the old structures.

SCLC Newsletter: September 1963

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.

Letter from the TATTLER Staff to MLK

Tuesday, November 10, 1964

The TATTLER staff at Atlanta's Drexel Catholic High School congratulates Dr. King on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

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.

Draft Introduction for "Why We Can't Wait"

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.

SCLC Citizenship Workbook

This workbook is an extension of the SCLC Conference Citizenship program "designed to acquaint citizens with the way in which our government is run and to help them meet voting requirements." This resource tool features a number of vocabulary-building, arithmetic, reading comprehension, and spelling exercises to better equip voters with the knowledge to "fight against prejudice and loss of human rights in education."

Telegram from Lawrence F. O'Brien to MLK

Thursday, August 5, 1965

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

I Marched on Washington

Kelly E. Miller composed this poem for Dr. King as a tribute to the March on Washington.

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.

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.

Royalty Statement from Joan Daves to MLK

Monday, August 23, 1965

This statement from Dr. King?s literary agent reflects monies earned from the German pocketbook edition of "Why We Can't Wait."

Ebenezer Project Bill

Citizens Trust Company reminds the SCLC of an upcoming payment related to the "Ebenezer Project."

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.

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.

Birmingham Desegregation Settlement Agreement

Friday, May 10, 1963

Dr. King reviews the settlement made between the City of Birmingham and civil rights protesters. This agreement includes the integration of lunch counters, sitting rooms, restrooms, and water fountains within ninety days.