King speaks at March on Washington

"It seemed as if every time he spoke, he said something I wanted or needed to hear," said Rosa Parks of Martin Luther King Jr. Mrs. Parks’ arrest, after refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus, had sparked the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955. The young Reverend King was propelled into the national spotlight through his leadership role in that historic effort. Inspired by the success in Montgomery, a group of black ministers formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957. With King as president, the SCLC took the message and techniques of nonviolent mass protest (pioneered by Mahatma Gandhi in India) to other communities in the South. Black churches became the focus for the movement, and Martin Luther King Jr. its eloquent spokesman.

Click below to view digital copies of his correspondence with the White House:

Letter (2/28/61) from Martin Luther King Jr. to Frank Reeves, Special Assistant to the President, regarding enclosed copies of an article by Dr. King that appeared in The Nation and noting "the powerful things that the President can do in the civil rights area through executive orders."

Telegram (12/13/61) from Martin Luther King to the President: "WE URGE YOU ISSUE AT ONCE A SECOND EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION TO FREE ALL NEGROES FROM SECOND CLASS CITIZENSHIP.”

Telegram (3/30/62) from Martin Luther King to the President, urging him to consider Judges William Hastie and Thurgood Marshall in filling a vacancy on the Supreme Court: "THIS IS SUPERB OPPORTUNITY FOR THE ADMINISTRATION TO REVEAL TO THE WORLD ITS SERIOUS DETERMINATION TO MAKE THE NEGRO A FULL PARTICIPANT IN EVERY PHASE OF AMERICAN LIFE."

Telegram (8/31/62) from Martin Luther King to the President during the campaign against discrimination in Albany, Georgia

Telegram (11/20/62) from Martin Luther King praising the President’s issuance of an executive order banning discrimination in all federally assisted housing.

Telegram (12/15/62) from Martin Luther King to the President: "A VIRTUAL REIGN OF TERROR IS STILL ALIVE IN BIRMINGHAM ALABAMA IT IS BY FAR THE WORST BIG CITY IN RACE RELATIONS IN THE UNITED STATES."

Telegram (3/28/63) from Martin Luther King to the President about the situation in Greenwood, Mississippi: "I HAVE NO ALTERNATIVE BUT TO APPEAL TO YOU AS HEAD OF OUR NATION TO PERSONALLY INTERVENE IN BEHALF OF THE SAFETY AND PROTECTION OF CITIZENS AND WORKERS INVOLVED IN VOTER REGISTRATION."

Form letter (April, 1963) from Martin Luther King addressed to "Dear Friend" appealing for funds to support the S.C.L.C. in its battle against segregation.

Telegram (4/13/63) from Wyatt Tee Walker, executive assistant to Martin Luther King, informing President Kennedy about the plight of Dr. King and Rev. Ralph Abernathy, who had been placed in solitary confinement in the Birmingham City Jail after being arrested with other demonstrators.

Telegram (4/16/63) from Martin Luther King to President Kennedy, expressing appreciation to the President for telephoning Mrs. King about the situation in Birmingham.

Telegram (5/30/63) from Martin Luther King to Attorney General Robert Kennedy requesting a conference with him and the President "TO DISCUSS THE CRISIS IN RACE RELATIONS FOMENTED BY THE SNAIL LIKE PACE OF DESEGREGATION ALL ACROSS THE SOUTH."

Telegram (6/11/63) from Martin Luther King to JFK after listening to the President’s civil rights address: "IT WAS ONE OF THE MOST ELOQUENT PROFOUND AND UNEQUIVOCAL PLEAS FOR JUSTICE AND FREEDOM OF ALL MEN EVER MADE BY ANY PRESIDENT."

Telegram (9/15/63) from Martin Luther King to President Kennedy following the explosion of a bomb at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham that killed four girls: "I WILL SINCERELY PLEAD WITH MY PEOPLE TO REMAIN NON VIOLENT IN THE FACE OF THIS TERRIBLE PROVOCATION HOWEVER I AM CONVINCED THAT UNLESS SOME STEPS ARE TAKEN BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT...MY PLEAS SHALL FALL ON DEAF EARS AND WE SHALL SEE THE WORST RACIAL HOLOCAUST THIS NATION HAS EVER SEEN."