I Have a Dream: Making Dr. King’s Legacy Accessible to the World

There are nearly 1 million documents associated with the life of Martin Luther King Jr. Excerpt from digital image of a revision of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech; part of the archives at www.thekingcenter.org

The documents reveal the scholar, the father, and the pastor. Through these papers we see the United States of America at one of its most vulnerable, most honest and perhaps most human moments in history.

~The King Center Archives

Yet, perhaps one of the most radical ideas today is not simply Dr. King’s words, but a project intended to make those words, as he wrote them, accessible to the world.

Imagine viewing Dr. King’s notes on what may be his most famous speech.  Noting that he, himself, in his own handwriting, chose to edit out all negative thoughts and references to a painful past and instead focus on the dream he held for the future.  An intensely powerful, personal, and uplifting dream for us all to follow.  And today the world can view that document, thanks to the King Center Imaging Project.

For over 40 years, only scholars had access to the original document shown above, as well as the rest of the document collection housed within the King Center. And, they had to visit the library itself in Atlanta, GA to read them.

In 2011, a radical change took place with the initiation of the King Center Imaging Project. Funded by JP Morgan Chase’s Technology for Social Good group, the project was undertaken with the intent to convert the entire set of documents into a true digital archive. Using cloud technology,  state-of-the-art document imaging processes, and the dedicated efforts of students from Spelman and Morehouse Colleges and U.S. Veterans from the Veterans Curation Project, the library is now available to the world.

Imagine – millions of original documents recording the life, thoughts, and activities of a man who used words, not war, to change the world as we knew it and to completely alter the course of our collective future.  Freely accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world, at any time, on any device.

Now that’s a dream that we think Dr. King would be proud of.

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