Martin Luther King Jr. Collection

Collection History

Morehouse College acquired the collection in 2006 when Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and other civic and corporate leaders assembled a multi-million dollar deal to keep the coveted collection from being auctioned by Sotheby's in New York City. We fulfilled Coretta Scott King's early vision that Morehouse should hold the collection when it arrived on September 14, 2006.

We held the first and only public exhibition of the collection from January 15 to May 13, 2007, at the Atlanta History Center. "I Have a Dream: The Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection" exhibited more than 600 works, including drafts of the "I Have a Dream" speech, King's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, and sermons from his ministry and personal notes. During this time, Morehouse and the King Family Estate collaborated with CNN to produce a five-part primetime series, "MLK Papers: Words That Changed a Nation," with Soledad O'Brien and interviews with Representative John Lewis (D-Ga.), activist Dorothy Cotton, and Andrew Young.

Archival Collaborations

The Howard Gotlieb Archival Center at Boston University, the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, and the Morehouse King Collection established a collaborative partnership of King's papers. Working closely together, these three academic institutions formed the MLK Jr. Archival Collaborative in 2007 to coordinate efforts to preserve King historical materials. The collaborative work allows researchers to benefit from scholarly developments associated with the King Papers Project at Stanford and to access digital finding aids indexing all three collections.

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Archive at Boston University includes more than 80,000 items, primarily of King's office files, manuscripts, awards, and extensive correspondence from 1955-1961. Stanford University's King Papers Project under the direction of Dr. Clayborne Carson is a major research effort to publish a definitive 14-volume edition of King's most significant correspondence, sermons, speeches, published writings, and unpublished manuscripts.

Collection Highlights

The Nobel Peace Prize

King delivered a lecture for his Nobel Peace Prize and an acceptance speech in December 1964.

Letter from Birmingham Jail

The original document was smuggled out of jail and discarded after a better copy was typed. The printed version of the letter published in Christian Century magazine is extensively corrected and revised by King. It shows his final edits and additions before the publication of the letter in his third book, "Why We Can't Wait."

Personal Papers and Photos

The blue exam book from King's 1946 Bible class as a Morehouse student, correspondence between famous and not-as-well-known people, drafts of some of his sermons, and other documents make up the personal papers and photos in the collection. Also included are King's favorite books, many with his handwritten notes in margins, and letters and telegrams between King and people such as Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and Malcolm x.

Normalcy, Never Again

Better known as the iconic "I Have a Dream" speech, this is an early transcript of the speech King delivered at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. The back of the last page includes King's handwritten notes and is thought to be the only existing draft to do so.

Eulogy for Carol Denise McNair, Addie Mae Collins, and Cynthia Diane Wesley

King delivered the sermons for three of the four girls who died in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in September 1963. Included are his handwritten notes for the eulogy on the back cover of Here and Beyond the Sunset, a volume of poetry collected by Nannie Helen Burroughs.

Strategic Planning List

This document was drafted by King in New York City on February 1, 1965, and outlines many assignments seeking to involve state and federal authorities, encourage a congressional investigation, and push for President Lyndon B. Johnson to intervene.

Dissertation Draft

Written to satisfy the requirements of his doctoral program at Boston University, this is King's partially typed draft with annotations of "A Comparison of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman."