MLK Collection gives new voice to Civil Rights visionary

The now empty briefcase of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., sits encased at the National Center for Human Rights in Atlanta. Beside it sits two unopened tubes of shaving powder among a stack of faded papers and magazines ­– its final contents at the time of Dr. King’s assassination. But, from 1944 to 1968, it carried hundreds of handwritten notes, artifacts and famous words that are now on display in the FedEx-sponsored “Voice to the Voiceless” Gallery at the museum. For visitors – young and old – the exhibit gives perspective into the mind of Martin Luther King, Jr. before he was the respected reverend of the civil rights movement and pause to the possibilities if the iconic activist were alive today.

Exhibit Offers New Perspectives

In Morehouse College’s student publication, The Maroon Tiger, King once wrote, “we must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.” Wise words from the 15-year old early admissions student that once received a “C” in public speaking as shown on his Morehouse report card featured in the exhibit. It is this new insight and intimate peak offered through the FedEx Voice to the Voiceless gallery.

The exhibit showcases a rotation of “the best of the best” of more than 10,000 personal items from the Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr., Collection Papers. Drafts of his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech; notes for his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech originally titled “Normalcy, Never Again;” a coffee-stained telegram from Malcolm X; and a scribble-filled copy of “Letter from Birmingham Jail” highlight a specific moment in time as seen through King’s eyes. Beyond King’s most famous words other items include: credit card receipts; travel coupons; "to do" lists, a telegram from President Lyndon B. Johnson inviting King to the signing of the Voting Rights Act and communications between King and other famous leaders such as Reverend Joseph Lowery and Andrew Young.

“FedEx’s support of the Voice to the Voiceless Gallery, combined with its generosity in hosting free admission days sets the tone for the powerful experience visitors have at the Center — and ensures more people have that opportunity,” said Jill Savitt, CEO, National Center for Civil and Human Rights. “The Voice to the Voiceless Gallery is the heartbeat of our Center. It’s our sacred space. FedEx’s support ensures that items Dr. King actually touched are able to touch others and inspire all visitors to ask a question Dr. King demanded we ask of ourselves: What are you doing for others?”

Dr. King’s Words Inspire New Possibilities

The words “I Have a Dream…” in a diversity of languages illuminate the back wall of the exhibit and have more meaning now than ever. They reflect the vision of an icon, but also inspire a call to action for the next generation of leaders. 2019 commemorates what would have been King’s 90th birthday and while his physical presence may be absent, his dream lives on through the service and leadership of people and communities. In honor of his legacy, more than 900 FedEx team members came together to do just that – dedicating nearly 2,000 volunteer hours packing meals, cleaning up neighborhoods, and volunteering at civil-rights focused museums across the United States on January 21, 2019.

In the words of Dr. King, “human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” The Voice to the Voiceless Gallery is the place where past papers and photos are examples of the struggle, but also a place that preserves, educates and empowers people to live and lead with impact in the present.