Themes

The Archive

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.

Explore another theme

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."

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

Monday, October 30, 1967

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.

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.

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.

Letter from A. Philip Randolph to President Lyndon Johnson

Tuesday, July 18, 1967

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.

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.

Proposal for Preventing Denial of the Right to Vote

Thursday, October 29, 1964

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.

Dr. Spock, Dr. King and Rev. Rice Marching Down 5th Ave. NYC. April 15, 1967

Saturday, April 15, 1967

This photo comes from the Benedict J. Fernandez "Countdown to Eternity" portfolio.
(Copyright: Benedict J. Fernandez)

Letter to MLK Requesting Aid

Saturday, September 9, 1967

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.

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.

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.

Soap, Brush Help

Addressing Chicago slums, the focal point of Dr. King's Chicago crusade, the writer of the article calls for all tenants, regardless of race, creed or color, to assume some responsibility for the upkeep of their buildings instead of expecting Dr. King and the landlords of the buildings to solve the issue for them.

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.

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.

Slum Building Seized

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

Norwegian Peace Initiative

Friday, January 6, 1967

Five Norwegians concerned about the Vietnam conflict propose that winners of the Nobel Peace Prize form a negotiating delegation to visit the US and Hanoi governments.

Dexter Avenue Baptist Church Annual Report, 1955-1956

This report contains vital information concerning the organizational structure, services, and members of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Dr. King provides a heartfelt address to the Montgomery, AL congregation as he seeks to extend the church's influence throughout the community amidst his growing involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.

Letter from MLK to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy

Wednesday, June 24, 1964

Dr. King describes Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy's efforts as "courageous" and "effective" in guiding Congress to establish the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Text of Speech Delivered at Lincoln Memorial

Wednesday, August 28, 1963

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.

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.

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.

A Tough Mind and A Tender Heart

Sunday, August 30, 1959

An early foreshadowing of his nonviolent philosophy, Dr. King advises Negroes of a particular course of action they should adhere to in order to properly equip themselves to combat racial injustice. Seeking to avoid both complacency and hostility, he challenges those who desire self-satisfaction, as well as those who seek to pacify their oppressors, by proposing the idea of one having both a tough mind and a tender heart.

Telegram from MLK to President Johnson on Rhodesia

Thursday, November 11, 1965

Dr. King urges President Johnson to respond to the unilateral declaration of independence by Prime Minister Ian Smith of Rhodesia by withdrawing American officials, refusing diplomatic recognition and severing economic ties.

Invitation to President Kennedy's Inaugural Ball

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.

Program from Community Salute to MLK: Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Thursday, December 17, 1964

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 President Johnson to MLK on Assuming Presidency

Monday, December 2, 1963

President Johnson writes Dr. King thanking him for his sympathetic telegram as he assumes the Presidency and assures him that he will continue the fight for civil rights initiated by President Kennedy.

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.

MLK Remarks on Negro Press Week

Monday, February 10, 1958

In this transcribed radio address, Dr. King describes how future generations will remember the 20th century as a time where righteous people fought for social, economic, and political freedom. Dr. King also states that the African-American fight for true citizenship is not only a part of American heritage, but also the story of people everywhere who struggle for dignity and freedom. Dr. King made this radio address for Negro Press week a the request of Louisville Defender Editor and National Newspaper Publishers Association board member Frank Stanley.

We Would See Jesus

Sunday, May 7, 1967

Dr. King gives this sermon to a congregation at Ebenezer Baptist Church. He conveys a message of Christ's acceptance of all despite any person's wrong doings in the past. He also points out that Christ's work is exemplified through individual acts of kindness and helping others.

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."