Creating Technology for Social Change

MLK papers: now open to public and accessible online

A timely and welcome development – although I had to temper my initial enthusiasm, as both The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and AP reports make clear that this ‘online access’ comes with the pre-requisite of a trip to the library.
A little puzzling at first sight, but on the whole this initiative a step in the right direction.… > Metro > Atlanta
King papers go public today with online access
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Scholars and casual researchers can get their hands on important civil rights history — virtually, at least — for the first time today as a major portion of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s papers go public.

Computer access to the documents, which have been digitized and cataloged, will be available beginning today at the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center.

The papers represent more than 75 percent of a 10,000-item collection bought by a group of civic and business leaders in 2006 from King’s family. Mayor Shirley Franklin and former Mayor Andrew Young spearheaded the effort to raise $32 million for the purchase.

King scholar Clayborne Carson, founding director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, has been named executive director of the papers and distinguished professor at Morehouse College. Morehouse, King’s undergraduate alma mater, is custodian of the collection.

The documents include many of King’s speeches and personal writings from 1946 to 1968.

About 7,000 pieces are handwritten by King, including an early draft of the famous “I Have a Dream” speech, his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech and nearly 100 sermons, some of which never have been published.

All will be available for examination.

Carson, interviewed by telephone Monday, said he is especially excited about the outlines, drafts and finished manuscripts of sermons that give insight into King the preacher.

“The religious documents are the ones that have not been available to scholars,” he said.

Carson, 64, said he has spent the last 20 years trying to make King materials available for future generations. “This is a major step forward,” he said. “At the end of this process, it will be a lot easier for researchers to do their work.”

The Woodruff library papers are one of three major King collections. Others are at the King Center in Atlanta, and at Boston University, where King received his doctorate in systematic theology. King donated a collection to the university in 1964.

Morehouse, Boston University and the King Institute at Stanford, which has copies but not originals of King papers, are developing aids that will help researchers determine the location of specific documents, Carson said. He hopes to speed the process. The project, officially the MLK Jr. Archival Collaborative, is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“I want to do everything I can to encourage more research and better research, not only on Martin Luther King but on the people who were alongside him in his life,” Carson said.


Nearly two-year effort brings King Collection index online
By Associated Press | Athens Banner-Herald | Story updated at 11:30 pm on 1/13/2009

ATLANTA – Scholars and armchair academics alike now can browse an online listing of thousands of documents in the Martin Luther King Jr. Collection that further pull back the curtain on King’s life as a preacher and a person, officials at Morehouse College announced Tuesday.
Archivists have spent nearly two years cataloguing and digitizing the collection, which is housed at Morehouse, where King graduated in 1948. Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin led an 11th-hour campaign to buy the papers in a $32 million private sale in 2006 that thwarted a public auction to be held at Sotheby’s in New York.
Morehouse President Robert Franklin called the collection a “powerful tool” for education and insight into King’s life.
“There is a wealth of transformative knowledge that we have yet to glean from Dr. King,” he said.
Originally published in the Athens Banner-Herald on Wednesday, January 14, 2009