From the Desk of Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King at his desk

As today is observed as Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the US, I thought I’d look and see if I could find any photos about the tools that MLK, Jr used to write his speeches, sermons and correspondence.

King inspired the nation through his efforts during the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s and his empassioned words. Where did he compose these words?

I didn’t find any specific information on the topic of his desk and workspace but I did find photos of Dr. King in his office or at his desk. I love photos like this, no matter how staged they might be. They have little hints of the way he worked. There is no typewriter in any of the photos I found. Dr. King clearly hand wrote his notes, correspondence and speeches. Someone else (maybe Coretta?) might have typed them up later but this was not something he did.

What is evident from most photos of King’s office is that he liked to surround himself with books.

Martin Luther King Jr in his office

The photo above looks like it might have been taken at the same time as the last photo below. King is wearing the same shirt. One the desk is a goose-meck lamp, a glass paperweight egg, a bottle of ink and a refillable page-a-day calendar. In his hand is what appears to be a yellow pencil. Like any great thinker, his desk is buried in paper and books.

MLK in his office

The cantilevering pile of books on the shelf on the far left of the above photo make me itchy. They look like they will fall over at any minute. I wonder for what occasion he had gotten the large trophy?

I love that there is a photo of Coretta featured prominently on the shelf behind Dr. King. There appear to be two phones behind him.

Martin Luther King Jr in front of bookcase

Above King is captured in front of his bookcase. There is evidence of spiritual texts as well as history books.

Martin Luther & Coretta Scott King

Above, King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, appear behind his desk. In the forefront of the photo is the same egg shaped paperweight as previous photos as well as a desk pen stand, a refillable calendar and an ashtray. Behind the couple are filing cabinets and barrister bookcases with glass fronts. I wonder what the circumstances that led to this particular photo being taken. While I am certain Mrs. King was an active part of the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. King’s work, this photo feels staged. It does give a good idea of the items on King’s desk.

Every photo I’ve ever seen of Martin Luther King, Jr, he always looked so serene. His belief in non-violence seemed to show in his eyes.

While many Americans may look upon today’s “bank holiday” as a bonus 3-day weekend, it’s worth remembering at how MLK, Jr lived and worked. This day should inspire us to reflect on his words, his work and the legacy he left behind.

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8 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Hi Ana, what a thoughtful way you chose to celebrate the Dr. King holiday. Because you shared it with your readers, it became a better way to spend part of this day honoring the great Civil Rights leader. Thank you for including the photos.

    I was lucky to get to see a play about Dr. King’s last day at that motel where he was assassinated. It was almost a one man play, and was wonderfully done (right here at a KC theater).

  2. This is a really insightful and engaging view of Dr. King, and beautifully written. Thank you for reminding me of what the day is about.

  3. A really lovely post, Ana — thank you. I love seeing his desk and office. I’ve never seen any of these photos of Dr. King before.

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