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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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President Kennedy's Stand on Negotiation in Albany

In this statement made from the Albany, Georgia city jail where he was imprisoned, Dr. King expresses appreciation for President Kennedy's support of negotiation between Albany's City Commission and civil rights leaders.

Speech to the Synagogue Council of America

Sunday, December 5, 1965

Dr. King receives the Judaism and World Peace Award from the Synagogue Council of America and uses the occasion to speak about the Civil Rights Movement and international peace. He laments the vehement criticism of dissent and discussion of the Vietnam War and enumerates reasons why the Hebrew prophets are so needed today.

The Massachusetts Review: A Legacy of Creative Protest

Friday, September 7, 1962

Dr. King writes of the influence of Henry David Thoreau's essay on the duty of civil disobedience in forming his belief that non-cooperation with evil is a moral obligation. He cites lunch-counter sit-ins, freedom rides, and the bus boycott as evidence that Thoreau’s thinking is still alive. This article appeared in a special 1962 issue of The Massachusetts Review commemorating the centennial of Thoreau’s death.

An Open Letter to Free Americans

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

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.

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom Pamphlet

This pamphlet promotes the historic March on Washington of August 28, 1963. The pamphlet calls upon Congress to pass civil rights legislation and end the "twin evils of discrimination and economic deprivation" that plague the nation.

Letter from Jackie Robinson to MLK

Tuesday, October 9, 1962

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

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.

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.

ABC's Issues and Answers: MLK Interview

Sunday, June 18, 1967

Dr. King sat down with Tom Jerriel, Atlanta Bureau Chief, and John Casserly, Washington Correspondent, of the American Broadcasting Company for their program "Issues and Answers." They discussed the civil rights movement, Dr. King's upcoming book, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that Dr. King would serve jail time in Birmingham.

MLK Memorandum on SCLC Direct Action Plans

In this confidential memorandum, Dr. King outlines SCLC’s direct action program for Birmingham, Alabama and Danville, Virginia. For each community, he states the challenges, defines goals, and then provides detailed steps to be taken and also staff assignments. He promises to outline his plan for Montgomery, Alabama in a few days.

Slum Building Seized

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

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.

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

Tuesday, November 7, 1950

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

Address by MLK to the Hungry Club

Wednesday, December 15, 1965

Dr. King addresses the members of The Hungry Club on the dilemma of "Negroes" obtaining complete equality. He refers to several passages from his "I Have a Dream" speech.

Postcard from Dekker Family

The Dekker family of Holland sends its support to Dr. King.

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."

Tonight Show Appearance Press Release

Wednesday, January 31, 1968

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.

Letter from Bayard Rustin to MLK

Friday, July 7, 1967

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.

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.

The Birth of a New Nation

Dr. King compares the ongoing civil rights struggle in the United States to the Hebrews' Exodus from Egypt.

Telegram from Berry Gordy, Jr. to MLK

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

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 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.

Letter from Dora McDonald to Bill Daniels

Friday, September 29, 1967

Dora McDonald writes Bill Daniels, of WSB-TV, expressing outrage over a cartoon depicting overt racism in a court of law.

Ralph David Abernathy: A Man of the People

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference published this booklet profiling Ralph David Abernathy. The articles describe his background, how he got involved in the Civil Rights Movement and the future of the SCLC under his leadership.

MLK's Transcript from Crozer Theological Seminary

Wednesday, December 6, 1950

In 1948, Dr. King entered Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania. Engaging in a sincere quest for knowledge, he sought stimulation in the works of several prominent areas, like philosophy and theology. As a result of his efforts and achievements at Crozer, Dr. King was chosen as the Valedictorian of the graduating class of 1951.

Letter from MLK to Coretta Scott King

Saturday, October 1, 1960

In an intimate letter to Mrs. King, Dr. King informs her of his recent arrival to the State Prison in Reidsville, Georgia. He urges her "to be strong in faith" as she is also pregnant with their third child at the time. He expresses his hope for a family visit that coming Sunday, and his desire to remain intellectually engaged during his four-month sentence.

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.