Martin Luther King, Jr., Inventory to Go Online
Mellon grant to Gotlieb Center expands access to history of civil rights movement| From Commonwealth | By Jessica Ullian
Martin Luther King, Jr. Photo courtesy of Boston University Photo Services
Since 1964, the Martin Luther King, Jr., collection at Boston University's Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center — more than 83,000 letters, manuscripts, speeches, and photographs that once belonged to the late civil rights leader — has been an important resource for King (GRS'55, HON.'59) scholars. It is the most heavily used collection at Boston University, says Vita Paladino, the center's director, drawing scholars from around the world.
Soon the King collection will be available to an even larger audience. The Gotlieb Center has entered into a partnership with the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center Consortium and the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute at Stanford University to create a joint online catalogue of their King holdings. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is funding this first-ever comprehensive inventory of multiple archives for one public figure and has given the Gotlieb Center more than $600,000 for the project.
"This project will be a great tribute to Dr. King by making the great historical record of his archive more accessible to researchers all over the world," says Paladino (MET'79, SSW'93). "This will hopefully also enlighten the world about his work, his theories and beliefs, and his sacrifice for the benefit of future generations."
The King archive was closed to the public on November 1 and will remain off limits for two years to facilitate the cataloguing. The exhibition Stride Toward Freedom, with originals and reproductions of King's correspondence with other civil rights leaders and family members, will remain open on the third floor of Mugar Memorial Library.
The King collection material dates from 1955 to 1961 and includes letters, clippings, itineraries, and meeting minutes. There is extensive documentation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Montgomery Improvement Association and many letters from prominent figures of the time, among them Bayard Rustin, Malcolm X, Adam Clayton Powell, Medgar Evers, Roy Wilkins, Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, William Sloane Coffin, Allan Knight Chalmers, Sidney Poitier, Jackie Robinson, A. Philip Randolph, Harry Belafonte, Ralph Abernathy, and Coretta Scott King.
The archive also contains material used in King's doctoral dissertation, including his class notes and a piece titled "Autobiography of My Religious Development." Draft manuscripts of King's books Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, and Why We Can't Wait, with his famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail," are part of the collection as well.