Dedicated to documenting the life of America's best-known advocate for peace and justice, The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. breaks the chronology of its series to present King's never-before-published sermon file. In 1997 Mrs. Coretta Scott King granted the King Papers Project permission to examine papers kept in boxes in the basement of the Kings' home. The most significant finding was a battered cardboard box that held more than two hundred folders containing documents King used to prepare his celebrated sermons. This private collection that King kept in his study sheds considerable light on the theology and preaching preparation of one of the most noted orators of the modern era.
These illuminating papers reveal that King's concern about poverty, human rights, and social justice was clearly present in his earliest handwritten sermons, which conveyed a message of faith, hope, and love for the dispossessed. His enduring message can be charted through his years as a seminary student, as pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, as a leader of the Montgomery bus boycott, and, ultimately, as an internationally renowned proponent of human rights who saw himself mainly as a preacher and "advocate of the social gospel." Ten of the original and unedited sermons King submitted for publication in the 1963 book Strength to Love and audio versions of King's most famous sermons are the culmination of this groundbreaking work.
Clayborne Carson is Director and Senior Editor of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute and Professor of History at Stanford University. Susan Carson is Managing Editor of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute. Susan Englander is Assistant Editor of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute. Troy Jackson is Senior Pastor of the University Christian Church in Cincinnati and a doctoral candidate in U.S. History at the University of Kentucky. Gerald L. Smith is Associate Professor of History at the University of Kentucky and Pastor of Farristown Baptist Church, Berea, Kentucky.