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Martin Luther King, Jr. Resources

This guide is divided into 10 different categories. Each is designed to give the researcher ideas on how to track down material relating to King's legacy. In the first category a rare video clip from a 1967 interview with King on the civil rights movement

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Primary Sources at the Kheel Center: This page was created by Steven Calco, Kheel Center

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Labor Movement

Seeing labor and civil rights as twin pillars of social reform, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. worked tirelessly to advocate for working people, created connections with labor leaders and union members, played key roles in pivotal strikes, and fought for economic justice on several fronts. He helped organize the March of Washington for Jobs and Freedom with A. Philip Randolph of the Sleeping Car Porters Union, worked with his ‘favorite union’ Local 1199 organizing hospital workers in New York City, orchestrated the Poor People’s Campaign, and played a key role in the Memphis Sanitation Workers strike right before his assassination. Unions in turn supported King’s civil rights agenda by donating to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), marching on Washington, participating in the Southern Freedom Rides, and even helping bail out protestors in Birmingham. In 1957, speaking at a United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA) event, King proclaimed that:

Organized labor can be one of the most powerful instruments to do away with this evil that confronts our nation… It is certainly true that the forces that are anti-Negro are by and large anti-labor, and with the coming together of the powerful influence of labor and all people of goodwill in the struggle for freedom and human dignity, I can assure you that we have a powerful instrument.

After his assassination, those in the labor movement mourned his death by holding vigils in the workplace and continuing to rally for workers’ rights in honor of King, holding signs proclaiming “We Will Carry on Your Great Struggle” and “We Mourn Our Loss.” Coretta Scott King continued his work with unions helping spearhead the “Union Power, Soul Power” Campaign with Local 1199 as honorary chair of their national organizing committee for over a decade, winning key union battles in Charleston, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and New York City.

Dr. King and Garment/Textile Unions

This section details Dr. King’s work with unions from our garment union collections including Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America Records (ACWA) and the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU). Of note are the correspondence with Dr. King and David Dubinsky, President of the ILGWU and Charles Zimmerman of the ILGWU. Sources include photographs, negatives, videos, correspondence, and telegrams.

#5619 Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America Records, 1914-1980

This collection contains a letter from Bessie Hillman of ACTWU stating: "The loss of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a grievous one not only to the people of his race but to all Americans. It is symbolic that he died while helping a labor union in its fight for existence. His struggle to bring dignity and well-being to the poverty stricken was in the tradition of the labor movement itself."

#5619/028 ACTWU's Conventions Records, 1972-1987

This collection contains two resolutions regarding the commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, including a resolution by the Philadelphia Joint Board of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America to make his birthday a holiday and a resolution from Cutters and Trimmers Local 110, Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (Philadelphia) designating January 15th as Martin Luther King Jr. day and to be a paid holiday.

#5745P ACWA Publicity Department Photographs

This collection includes photographs of Dr. King including several headshots; Dr. King receiving a $1,000 contribution from the ACWA Laundry Workers Joint Board; Congressman John Brademas, Mrs. Tanaway Chairman of civic planning committee, King, and Martha Wilson President of Local 319”; "Reverend King, We Shall Overcome!" protest; photo of Dr. King's last public appearance; Dr. King holding up his Nobel Peace Prize; "President George Meany pins the convention guest badge on Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.;” and "members of Local 275, Chicago Joint Board of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America meet with Coretta and Mrs. Paul H. Douglas at a tea, held in honor of Mrs. Douglas."

#5780 P ILGWU Photographs, 1835-1992

This collection includes photographs of Dr. King speaking at rallies; posing with award from the Religion and Labor Foundation; large rally in front of Washington monument; Dr. King, David Dubinsky, and Van Arsdale; Dr. King and Coretta leading Selma to Montgomery in March 1965; Dr. King in jail with Reverend Abernathy in 1964; and women in a shop listening to Dr. King’s funeral services on a radio.

#5780 P N45 ILGWU 4x5 Negatives of Photographs , 1885-1973

This collection includes a negative and small positive of Dr. King receiving the Social Justice Award from the Religion and Labor Foundation.

#5780/002 ILGWU David Dubinsky Correspondence, 1850-1981

This collection includes 9 telegrams and letters of thanks between Dr. King to David Dubinsky pertaining to donations to SCLC from the ILGWU.

#5780/047 ILGWU Joint Board Dress & Waistmakers' Union of Greater New York Managers'' Correspondence, 1909-1978

This collection includes letters and telegrams between Martin Luther King and ILGWU’s Charles Zimmerman; 9 letters and telegrams sent to various leaders from Zimmerman and George Meany urging political leaders to condemn and overturn the arrest and charge of Martin Luther King.

#5780/122 P ILGWU Justice Photographs, 1900-1991

This collection includes photographs of ILGWU women attending the March on Washington; Dr. King with an aide, Michael Quill, President of Transportation Workers Union (TWU), and ILGWU President David Dubinsky at a meeting of the AFL-CIO Trade Union Committee on Civil Rights in 1963; and ILGWU’s work supporting Dr. King at various strikes and marches from the Prayer Pilgrimage, Woolworth’s protest, and Marching for the Dream.

#6000/024AV UNITE Local 23-25 Audio-Visual Materials, 1978-2005

This collection includes a video of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

#6000/044P UNITE Photographs, 1920-2003

This collection contains several images of ILGWU women attending the March on Washington and Memphis Sanitation workers holding I AM A MAN signs.

#6200P UNITE HERE Photographs, 1962-2002

This collection contains photographs of Coretta Scott King at committee/political meetings; Dr. King and Coretta with 2 of their children; a close-up of Dr. King delivering a speech during the March on Washington; Coretta speaking at the Waldorf Astoria with sign labeled “Full Employment Action Council;” Coretta seated at a congressional hearing; a photo of the 10 year anniversary of King’s death; Coretta speaking at the 1978 ACTWU Full Employment Rally; Coretta presenting Congressman Hawkins with an award; Coretta talking with Murray H. Finley, ACWU labor leader; Coretta at Labor Unity Sept 1976; Coretta presenting an award to Leon Keyserling with Murray Finley.

Dr. King and Civil Rights

#5896 A. Philip Randolph Papers on Microfilm

This collection contains primarily general information, direct correspondence, and a few photographs reflecting Dr. King’s relationship with A. Philip Randolph. The collection contains many microfilmed documents including a receipt from Dr. King’s trip to India; statement on the indictment of Dr. King; a confidential memorandum entitled A Salute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; telegrams related to the jailing of Dr. King and other protestors; list of directors for the Martin Luther King memorial center; memo explaining and recruiting the need for continuing civil rights protests; document entitled the Revolving Bail Fund; board meeting notes and minutes focused on defending Dr. King and struggle for freedom in the South; flyer for rally in Harlem; combined democracy appeal document; document titled Call to a Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom; and documents on youth march for integrated schools; In four images including a blurry postcard with a photo of MLK and Randolph and other men titled Civil Rights for All Americans beneath them on the front and a note on the back; A pamphlet titled Obsequies, Martin Luther King Jr..

In the correspondence section there is a letter from Randolph to Coretta Scott King; many letters and telegrams between Dr. King and Randolph; letter from Dr. King to Dubinsky; annual report from Dr. King’s eighth Southern Christian Leadership Conference; letter from William Holmes Borders to Dr. King; letter from Dr. King to Mr. Lerner; letter from Randolph on behalf of the Committee to Defend Martin Luther King Jr. and the Struggle for Freedom in the South; and a letter to Wendell L.Wilkie from Ralph J. Bunche, Dr. King, and Raldolph. Kheel also holds #6079mf FBI Files on A. Philip Randolph on Microfilm

#5975MF A. J. Muste Papers on Microfilm, 1905-1967

This collection contains minutes of board meetings in the month of March for the Committee to Defend Martin Luther King and the Struggle for Freedom in the South; The third document seems to be a poster titled Heed Their Rising Voices which speaks to the urgency of supporting peaceful Civil Rights protestors and their aligned mission with Dr. King’s words, this document also contains a part which can be used to send in donations. 

#5968 David Weiner Papers

This collection contains two packets of photos of Dr. King including Dr. King and Ralph Abernathy in jail in St. Augustine, FL; Selma on March 25, 1965; "Leaders of the big three civil-rights groups marched arm-in-arm in Canton, Mississippi; Dr. King during the March on Washington in 1963; and Dr. King on a front seat of a bus in Montgomery a year after the boycott.

Dr. King Publications at Kheel

#6034 Rare Pamphlet Collection

This collection contains a thin booklet titled: "Letter from Birmingham City Jail" by Martin Luther King, Jr. 

#6046 Archives Union File (AUF)

This collection contains many pamphlets including King discussing the status of the civil rights struggle and white sentiment after Selma and the signing 1965 Voters Rights Act; TWU and Dr. King; "America's Greatest Crisis... an address by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King to the 11th Constitutional Convention, Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO" on October 10, 1961;" a Legislative report titled, "Support the Equal Rights Bill: Demands that all union members are responsible to support civil rights as a moral obligation”; a poster with a statement by President Quill; and a large flyer titled "End the American Tragedy, Call off the Dogs! Let the Federal Troops Act!" in response to brutality in Birmingham.