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Dear Martin

Letters to a young leader revealed at Mugar

Click the slide show to hear a reading of letters written to Martin Luther King, Jr.

In late 1954, just months before Martin Luther King, Jr. (GRS’55, Hon.’59) earned  a doctorate in theology from Boston University, he received a letter from his father. It opened with the news that a woman from his church had recently lost her husband, but soon it turned to King’s growing renown as a civil rights leader.

“You see, young man, you are becoming very popular,” his father noted before advising him, “As I told you, you must be much in prayer. Persons like yourself are the ones the devil turns all its life forces aloose to destroy.”

The letter is among many pieces of King’s correspondence displayed in the Martin Luther King, Jr., Reading Room, on the third floor of Mugar Memorial Library. Along with selected photos and other historical artifacts, the letters, signed by the likes of Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers, Jackie Robinson, Langston Hughes, and Dwight Eisenhower, provide a glimpse into King’s life as he transitioned from graduate student to emerging national figure.

The letters are selected from the 83,000 documents in the University’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Collection, which King gave to BU in 1964. Other documents from the King Collection, housed at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, will be included in African-American History Makers in Massachusetts, part of the Gotlieb Center’s Student Discovery Seminars, to be held at the center on Tuesday, January 16, at 5 p.m. 

During the hourlong seminar, students will be allowed to handle and read the King papers and those of several other African-American leaders and history makers who lived or worked in Massachusetts, including King mentor and former Marsh Chapel Dean Howard Thurman (Hon.’67); Edward Gourdin, Olympic long-jump silver medalist, brigadier general, and the state’s first African-American Superior Court justice; and newspaper editor and civil rights pioneer William Monroe Trotter.

Chris Berdik can be reached at cberdik@bu.edu.