Black History Month – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Each February, the United States celebrates Black History Month, which underscores and celebrates the contributions of African American Culture to the American experience over hundreds of years. Black History Month also examines and highlights the terrible oppression African Americans have experienced during these hundreds of years, and those who fought against it and made lasting cultural and political change for African Americans. Arguably the most famous of these resistors is Martin Luther King, Jr., who was a highly respected and beloved figure of the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s. George Mason University’s Special Collections Research Center is home to a few materials related to King and his indelible legacy on America and the world at large.

Oliver F. Atkins photograph collection

Martin Luther King, Jr. at a press conference outside the White House. Oliver F. Atkins photograph collection. January 1964.

Oliver F. Atkins was the chief White House Photographer for the Nixon administration, and as a result photographed many seminal moments during those years, as well as before. At the time of this photograph in January 1964, King had just been named TIME Magazine’s Man of the Year and three staff members of Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) had been imprisoned for trespassing after asking to be served at the Heart of Atlanta motel. Clearly, the movement for Civil Rights was still in full swing. In this photograph taken by Atkins, King stands speaking to reporters outside the White House.

James H. Laue papers 

Letter from Martin Luther King, Jr. to James H. Laue. James H. Laue collection. September 6, 1962.

This collection contains the working papers of James H. Laue, former professor of conflict resolution at George Mason University. The papers document Laue’s development as a sociology student and Civil Rights activist in the early 1960s through his career as a mediator and professor of urban sociology and conflict resolution. This letter, written to Laue from Martin Luther King, Jr. himself, asking Laue to participate in an “all-out assault on segregation and discrimination.” This remarkable letter also refers to the lead up of the Birmingham campaign, which was made up of non-violent protesting efforts by King and the SCLC to bring national attention to their cause.

Marcia E. McDevitt papers

Flyer for Reston’s 19th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration. Marcia E. McDevitt papers. 2004.

The Marcia E. McDevitt papers consists of various documents, pamphlets, photographs, and videos from Marcia E. McDevitt. The papers all relate to either Reston, Virginia, or Fairfax County, Virginia, and different programs and projects undertaken in the area. Reston, a planned community in Northern Virginia, has held many events and activities over the years. The above document is a flyer for celebrations held in Reston on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.


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