Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Documents

In time for today’s Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, the collection of M.L.K. papers, books and other items are available to the public at the Woodruff Library at Morehouse College in Atlanta. The website provides archival descriptions and other study aides and describes the collection overview:

The Morehouse King Collection includes approximately 1,000 books from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s personal library with his handwritten notes throughout. In addition, there are hundreds of handwritten index note cards, possibly used for reference as Dr. King developed his many oratorical speeches and academic assignments, and many more typed and handwritten manuscripts and items, including: a telegram from President Lyndon B. Johnson inviting him to the signing of the voting rights act in 1965; handwritten edits of eulogies delivered on behalf of martyred adults and children of the Civil Rights Movement; drafts of numerous sermons, famous speeches; “to-do” lists for civil rights leaders the Rev. Joseph Lowery, Walter Fauntroy and Andrew Young; credit card receipts; travel coupons; examination blue books from college and even the cosmetics containers of found within a suitcase and briefcase used when he traveled.

More highlights are noted here.

Another collection of material related to Dr. King is the Complete FBI File on Martin Luther King, Jr. consisting of 16,659 pages. The FBI has posted 201 pages in two parts on its web site here. The rest of the file can be found online in a series of zip file on this site posted by The Memory Hole. Documents have been censored and many pages include blacked-out sections.

There are an additional 11,000 plus pages posted on this FBI web page here relating to the FBI file of security investigations of Stanley Levison from the 1950’s through the early 1970’s. Levison was a key advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr. LexisNexis Black Studies Research Sources has User Guides relating to both the King and the Levison files.

The FBI’s tracking of King is covered by David Garrow, The FBI and Martin Luther King, Jr.: From “Solo” to Memphis (Call # E185.97.K5 G37 1981) available in the BLS Library collection.

The 16,659 pages are just a portion of King’s FBI files. The FBI withheld some pages under exemptions allowed by the Freedom of Information Act. On January 31, 1977, in the cases of Bernard S. Lee v. Clarence M. Kelley, et al. (U.S.D.C., D.C.) and Southern Christian Leadership Conference v. Clarence M. Kelley, et al. (U.S.D.C., D.C.), US District Judge John Lewis Smith, Jr., ordered the FBI to purge its files of all known copies of the recorded tapes relating to Martin Luther King, Jr. Judge Smith also ordered the FBI to deliver the tapes and documents to the custody of the National Archives and Records Service (NARA) to be maintained by the Archivist of the United States under seal for a period of fifty years. Part 1 of the User Guide above has more to read about this.