One thing that’s become abundantly clear to me after a year of following Black Lives Matter tweets and listening more closely to what people of color have to say about their own heroes and history without media spin, is that a lot of us¬†have only grasped a very very small portion of¬†Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision and values. It’s easy to cherry-pick quotes of his that make easily likeable¬†Facebook and Instagram photos (all shared with the best of intentions), or to honor his legacy¬†with thoughts about¬†peace. I’ve done it myself. But I’m coming to realize more and more, that it’s¬†really a simplification.

There is¬†so, so much more to Dr. King’s¬†journey, his beliefs, his accomplishments and the means it¬†took to get there. There’s¬†so much complexity in his views of injustice and racial subjugation. I feel I only know the smallest fraction of it.

So whether you consider yourself a scholar of Dr. King’s life’s work,¬†or you want to learn more about the bigger¬†picture, I think it’s brought to life beautifully via¬†The King¬†Center online.

If you haven’t been to the site — or if you haven’t sat down with your children to go through it together — The 30th anniversary of MLK Day is¬†a perfect opportunity to do so.¬†I think kids will find it fascinating.

Related: Terrific online MLK Day resources for kids. 

It’s like a virtual walk through Atlanta’s King Center, with¬†a growing collection of digitized memorabilia, clippings, sermons, photos, and notecards from the more than one million documents preserved¬†there.

It’s a testament to technology — and to the historians committed to the project — that now these original sources are now available to the whole world online, anytime, wherever we are.

Telegram from Dr. King congratulating Thurgood Marshall on his Supreme Court appointment | King Center digital archives

Give yourself some time to browse; it’s so easy to go¬†down the rabbit hole of fascinating documents¬†archived there:¬†A¬†telegram of congratulations to Thurgood Marshall on his appointment (above). The original 13-page typewritten 1968 Chicago Non-Violent Action Proposal. A foreward by Dr. King in an extensive brochure about school integration. A draft of his speech accepting the NYC Medallion in 1964. A fascinating brainstorm on Waldorf-Astoria Stationery of¬†12 ways to keep national attention focused on Selma.

Sometimes the most interesting finds are the smaller ones; I¬†can’t stop admiring the beautiful logo of the Catholic Interracial Council, spotted on the cover of¬†their 1965 Peace and Freedom Awards ceremony program¬†that honored Dr. King. Flip the pages, and you’ll see merit awards given to the Chairman of Deere and Co, the United Auto Workers’ Assistant Director of Education, and a Harlem Social Worker named Carole Gross.

That lead me to just what each of them were being honored for, unearthing some¬†beautiful examples of¬†of the smaller,¬†positive ripples Dr. King’s message¬†sent out into the world.


Beautiful logo from the Catholic Interracial Council 1965 Peace and Freedom Award program, honoring Dr. King


There’s also some truly¬†horrifying¬†hate mail¬†that’s been preserved in the archives, and it’s painful and difficult¬†to read. But perhaps what’s most disturbing to me about it is how so much of it reads (grammar and all) like many of the hateful¬†op-ed pieces and social media posts I’m¬†still seeing today, nearly 50 years later.

This is perhaps the most essential reason for me not¬†to just pay lip service to Dr. King’s accomplishments today, but to really carve out some time to sit with my family, and talk about what¬†else we can do to keep social progress and human decency going.

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