On June 23, 2006 it was announced that the coveted Morehouse College Collection of Martin Luther King Jr. Papers had avoided the auction block at Sotheby’s because of the efforts of Atlanta’s business, civic and private citizens who saw the value of the priceless collection returning home to Atlanta.
Former Mayor Andrew Young made the initial call and a small team including Dr. Walter Massey, Ingrid Saunders Jones, Greg Giornelli, John Ahmann, Raymond King and Alicia Phillips took responsibility for an intense fundraising effort to purchase the collection in just 11 days. The $32 million acquisition made international news and was heralded in Atlanta as a successful venture.
In just a few weeks Morehouse College had physical possession of the Collection and a few months later the Atlanta History Center hosted the inaugural exhibit from the Collection reaching nearly 70,000 visitors. The Collection includes more than 10,000 artifacts, from college exams and books to handwritten sermons. Handwritten notes for King’s “I Have a Dream” speech that was delivered in Washington in 1963 were also included.
Beginning May 2014 exhibits of the Collection will be an integral part of the human rights story told at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights (CCHR). The Center will be the only public space in the world where the papers of Martin Luther King Jr. will offer insight into the man and the Civil Rights Movement. Visitors to the Center will be met by quotes and graphics on the walls that reflect Dr. King’s life as they enter the chapel-like space that will house the papers.
“Every city and every mayor seeks to led those community efforts that celebrate the uniqueness of their history and the acquisition of the papers of Martin Luther King Jr. by local government and private donors is just such an effort. Atlantans from all walks of life remember Dr King and are inspired by his work and legacy – his vision of a just and compassionate world. He was born and educated in Atlanta and served as a courageous leader of the Civil Rights movement that changed America. Exhibited at the new National Center for Civil and Human Rights and studied at the Atlanta University Center Robert Woodruff Library the Collection serves as a solid foundation for dialogue and understanding contemporary human rights around the globe. This acquisition is one of many historic Atlanta highlights and I am proud of Atlanta and humbled to have participated.” Shirley Franklin