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The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. Volume III: Birth of a New Age, December 1955-December 1956

Cover of Volume 3.
Clayborne Carson, Stewart Burns, Susan Carson, Dana Powell, and Peter Holloran, eds.
University of California Press at Berkeley and Los Angeles

Birth of a New Age, the third volume of The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., traces King's personal transformation as he expands his role as pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church to assume new responsibilities as a civil rights leader. These documents trace the Montgomery movement from its beginning in December 1955 until its successful conclusion a year later. King's galvanizing speech at a crowded meeting on the first day of the boycott has been transcribed from a fragile tape recording and is published here in its entirety for the first time. His impromptu remarks to the angry crowd that gathered outside his bombed home demonstrate the intensity of his commitment to nonviolence. The full text of King's testimony at his boycott conspiracy trial provides a personal narrative of his involvement in the struggle. King's essays and oratory, including his powerful speech at the 1956 NAACP convention, reveal how his ideas reached ever larger audiences. Correspondence with family members, college friends, fellow ministers, Ghandian proponents, and national leaders connects King to an expanding network of supporters.

King's papers convey the immediacy of historic events. Admitting at one point that he was so busy he could "hardly breathe," King records his responses to conflicts within the Montgomery movement and threats from segregationists. While handling the day-to-day details required to sustain a mass movement, he also appreciated the broader significance of the Montgomery movement, identifying the protest with the "longing for human dignity that motivates oppressed people all over the world." The papers assembled in this volume depict King as a leader aware of his limitations yet also exceptionally well suited to the role that was unexpectedly thrust upon him.