Object of the Week: Image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


          January 18, 2021 marks the annual observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in honor of the Civil Rights leader’s life and legacy.  This day is one of service, not rest, encouraging all Americans to consider Dr. King’s work and honor his memory by volunteering in their communities.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day became a federally recognized holiday in 1983 when President Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law, though the first official federal observance did not occur until 1986.[1]

Image of MLK day article by Lenora Cerrato
Nancy Forsberg Collection, MSS 22, Folder 718 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 1968 Courtesy of Archives and Special Collections

In 1964, Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the Civil Rights Movement.[2]  He was 35 years old at the time, and the youngest man to have received the award to that point.  The prize was bestowed upon Dr. King in recognition of his nonviolent campaign against racial segregation. Since 1901 when the first Nobel Prizes were awarded, recipients have been required to present a public lecture.[3]  You can hear Dr. King’s Nobel Lecture in Oslo, Norway on December 11, 1964 in the video below.  Dr. Clayborne Carson, Director of The King Institute at Stanford University, believes this lecture, which “lays out his goals for the remainder of his life” is one of his most important speeches.  In this speech, King addresses the problems of racial injustice, poverty and war as global evils and not a uniquely American problem.[4]

The Statement of the Clergy of Union (NJ) on the formation of the MLK Commission was issued just a little over a week after his death, demonstrating their devastation and the importance they placed on Dr. King and his work.

Upon Dr. King’s assassination on April 4, 1968, the Clergy Association of Union (New Jersey) composed a statement which was read at a memorial service for Dr. King.  The typed statement, as well as a printed copy from a local newspaper, was preserved by Rev. Nancy Forsberg of the First Congregational Church, where she served as pastor from 1967 until her death in 2000.[5] Like Dr. King, Reverend Nancy – as she was affectionately known by parishioners – was dedicated to interfaith and interracial understanding.  She formed an interfaith Bus Ministry which took participants on inspirational day, weekend, and overseas trips in the furtherance of peace and understanding between people of various faiths and backgrounds.  The Nancy Forsberg Papers, preserved at The

Newspaper clipping on 3 x 5 card from the Nancy Forsberg Collection
Nancy Forsberg Collection, MSS 22, Folder 718 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 1968 Courtesy of Archives and Special Collections

Department of Archives and Special Collections at Seton Hall University, contains numerous clippings, correspondence and ephemera she collected, including a file dedicated to the subject of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., revealing the importance of his work in parallel to her own efforts.  Though Rev. Forsberg’s papers date to the late 1960s, they still resonate today and ask us to reconsider her and Dr. King’s efforts for Civil Rights and social justice with a renewed sense of urgency.  These materials are available to students, faculty and researchers.  For access, set up a research appointment online or contact us at 973-761-9476.

Marvin Rich Statement on death of Martin Luther King Jr.
Nancy Forsberg Collection, MSS 22, Folder 718 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 1968 Courtesy of Archives and Special Collections


[1] https://www.al.com/news/2018/01/alabama_mississippi_only_2_sta.html, accessed 1/8/2021.

[2] https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/1964/king/biographical/, accessed 1/8/2021.

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u71K76y7jf8, accessed 1/8/2021.

[4]https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/clayborne-carson, accessed 1/8/2021.

[5] http://www.tributes.com/obituary/show/Nancy-E.-Forsberg-83332540, accessed 1/8/2021.

50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech

Fifty years ago, on 28 August 1963, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom marked an important step in the struggle for civil rights by African Americans, and the most famous part of the event was the speech given by Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream.” Dr. King was a Baptist minister and civil rights activist advocating non-violent demonstrations, and he represented the Southern Christian Leadership Conference at the March, one of six large civil rights groups. Dr. King was already a well-known activist by the time of this speech, having been instrumental in several large boycotts and demonstrations throughout the South, but his speech came to be the lasting symbol of the event and is widely acknowledged as one of the best examples of American oratory in history. The speech lasted for 17 minutes, and the most famous lines, those beginning “I have a dream…” by which the speech came to be known, were not part of the written speech and were instead ad-libbed on the spot.

If you have never read or heard the speech in its entirety, now is the time. This compelling and moving speech helped push the civil rights movement along; the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed the next year, and Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, as well. These words, so eloquent and important fifty years ago, still have the power to move.

Archives and museums often hold the important pieces surrounding an event such as this, and preserve these pieces for future generations. Read the typed speech, housed at the National Archives and Records Administration, or watch a video on Youtube. Check out some of the other events and programs put on or up by the National Archives or by the National Civil Rights Museum. Remember the words of Dr. King, and work toward the dream.