How Morehouse Plans to Safeguard MLK's Legacy

Ed Gordon talks with Lawrence Carter, dean of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College, about what the donation of the civil rights icon's personal papers will mean for Morehouse, and how the school plans to safeguard King's legacy.

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ED GORDON, host:

Joining us now to talk about what obtaining the collection will mean for Morehouse College is Lawrence Carter, dean of the MLK International Chapel at Morehouse College. Dean Carter joins us from Atlanta. Good to have you with us.

Dean LAWRENCE CARTER (Dean MLK International Chapter, Morehouse College): Thank you very much, Ed.

GORDON: Dean, let me ask you. This, I'm sure - an exciting time on the campus. Talk to us, if you will, about what this will mean for the college.

Dean CARTER: Well, it is a great affirmation of the college as a national treasure - even an international treasure - and it is wonderful support of the dedicated of the dedicated teachers at Morehouse.

GORDON: I have the idea...

Dean CARTER: (unintelligible)

GORDON: I'm sorry, go ahead.

Dean CARTER: I think that the opportunity for Morehouse to own the papers and to make them accessible to the students will keep alive the tremendous emphasis on transformation, that changing the world begins with changing yourself.

GORDON: Dean, what of the idea of showing these papers now? Sotheby's obviously has the room and the wherewithal to be able to show all of these 10,000 at once. Have you all been talking about how these documents will, in fact, be displayed at the college?

Dean CARTER: That has gone on at the level of our vice president. And we have a very large library, the Robert Woodruff Library, that I believe the paper announced today that the first stop will be the Atlanta Historical Society. That responsibility will also be shared by the Auburn Avenue Research Center.

GORDON: Dean, how concerned were you, if at all, and your colleagues, that these papers might indeed, these documents might indeed get away?

Dean CARTER: I really never thought that would be the case. Truth crushed to the ground always rises eventually. And when you look at the influence and impact on Martin King on the nation and you start to examine the source of that impact, you inevitably arrive at Morehouse College. A very strong case can be made that the origins of the equal rights movement, which we call the civil rights movement today, started with the founder of Morehouse College, William Jefferson White.

GORDON: Mm-hmm.

Dean CARTER: And so I always believed that eventually the truth would get out and that story is going to be published, detailing the connection between Martin King and Morehouse College: a committed student and a committed college.

GORDON: Dean, what of the idea of keeping the legacy alive? This has to be, while a great opportunity, I would suspect people understand the weight and the girth of keeping these documents not only safe but in the public's eye in order for generations to come to understand the importance of this man.

Dean CARTER: Well, I think Morehouse has a history of growing up into the crown that the society and democracy, as well as through the Christian lens, has held above us. And I think there is great excitement. The fact that we were able to even produce Martin Luther King, black colleges have always been excellent examples of equality for everyone. Blacks and whites could mingle on black campuses long before they could mingle comfortably on majority campuses.

GORDON: Mm-hmm. Lawrence Carter, Dean of the MLK International Chapel in Atlanta, Georgia. We're so excited that the papers will go to their rightful home. And I know, having talked to you in the past, that they will be well taken are of by you and your colleagues. Dean Carter, thanks so much, appreciate it.

Dean CARTER: Thank you, Ed.

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