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Stanford Report, April 26, 2000

Fourth of 14-volume Martin Luther King Jr. papers published

The fourth volume in a planned 14-volume history of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s most significant correspondence, sermons, speeches, published writings and unpublished manuscripts has been published by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project.

Directed by Clayborne Carson, professor of history, the King Papers Project has been located on the Stanford campus since 1985, when the Atlanta-based Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change initiated the project.

Edited by Clayborne Carson, Susan Carson, Adrienne Clay, Virginia Shadron and Kieran Taylor, The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. Volume IV: Symbol of the Movement, January 1957--December 1958, is published by the University of California Press.


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The multi-volume series chronicles one of the 20th century's most dynamic personalities and his faith in the power of nonviolence to transform American society. Volume IV of King's papers traces his arrival as a national figure.

With the Montgomery bus boycott at an end, King confronted the sudden demands of celebrity while trying to identify the next steps in the struggle for equality. Eager to duplicate the success of the boycott, he spent much of 1957 and 1958 establishing the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

King found that he was more effective at inspiring supporters with his oratory than he was at organizing a mass movement for social change. But he remained committed: "The vast possibilities of a nonviolent, non-cooperative approach to the solution of the race problem are still challenging indeed. I would like to remain a part of the unfolding development of this approach for a few more years."

In March 1957, less than one month after his image appeared on the cover of Time magazine, King attended independence ceremonies in Ghana, West Africa. Two months later his first national address at the "Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom" was widely praised, and in June 1958, King's increasing prominence was recognized with a long-overdue meeting at the Eisenhower White House. During this period King also cultivated alliances with the labor and pacifist movements, and with international anticolonial organizations. As Volume IV closes, King's first book, Stride Toward Freedom, was released -- only days before he suffered a near-fatal stabbing in New York City. SR