Morehouse College will host a public program on its Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection Wednesday as part of a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
The collection, which is housed at the Atlanta University Center library, includes more than 13,000 individual documents. They represent everything from drafts of King’s most iconic speeches to everyday paperwork, including a class roster that displays the signature of Morehouse graduate Charles Black.
Black was one of just eight students to take a social philosophy course from Dr. King at Morehouse in 1961.
“As a matter of fact I would often leave the class, as I did other classes, to go downtown to picket and protest or to sit in a negotiation with somebody about something and I believe it may have been in the course of this class that I negotiated the desegregation of the movie houses,” said Black, who said he was the Chairman of the Atlanta student movement at the time.
King's original documents have been preserved and locked away in archives, but the public is welcome to browse digital images of the collection at the library.
In one essay, Dr. King writes about Henry David Thoreau’s theory of civil disobedience.
“Civil disobedience, yes we talked about that,” Black remembered. “So, you know, the point was we were finding of course for those of us who didn’t know, that there was nothing new about civil disobedience, nothing new about the kinds of protests that we were engaged in, that it had a basis in the minds of a lot of great philosophers and that we were carrying on an important, great tradition.”
Collection Director Vicki Crawford is continuing King’s teachings in her own classroom this year. She is leading a class of Morehouse students that's based around the archives.
“It’s a great opportunity for them to work in the primary documents, for them to actually come to the King Collection, read the rare documents, read some of the lesser known sermons and speeches that I’m sure they’re not familiar with and actually to think about it and to go out and to demonstrate what they’ve learned by working in the community.”
In the spring, Crawford’s students will craft their own community service projects based on what they have gleaned from King’s papers.
“They will live out what they’ve been reading and what they’ve been discussing in class."
Charles Black hopes people will use the anniversary of the March on Washington to learn more about the Civil Rights struggle.
“It’s important I think for the current generations to know what it took to get where we are—that they weren’t just born free,” Black said.
Morehouse will host its “teach-in” from 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. at the Robert W. Woodruff Library at the Atlanta University Center.