MLK Papers Project uncovers how Martin became King with rare, unpublished documents

Julian Glover interviews Dr. Clayborne Carson about the King Papers Project.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- We know about his dream, but how much do we know about the moments in his life that shaped that dream? The Martin Luther King Jr. Education and Research Institute at Stanford University is producing a multi-volume collection of MLK's personal and public documents, spanning decades, to illuminate little-known moments in the civil rights leader's life that shaped him.

It's the type of dilemma historians dream of.

For Dr. Clayborne Carson, the founding director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, it's become his life's work documenting King's life in the King Papers Project.

"It's taken us much longer to edit and publish his papers than it took him to live his life," said Dr. Carson. "That's been the challenge; not the lack of materials, but because of so much material out there."

The King Papers Project is a collection of King's most significant correspondence, sermons, speeches, and rare unpublished texts.

To date, seven exhaustive volumes have been published spanning hundreds of pages.

Each volume is bound in a signature red cover.

The work started in 1985 when Dr. Carson was handpicked by Coretta Scott King, founder of the King Center in Atlanta, to lead the project nearly 20 years after MLK was assassinated.

Glover: "How long did you believe it would take you to get through all 12 volumes at the time?"
Carson: "I'm kind of embarrassed to tell you the answer to that. I told (Coretta Scott King) 'probably in about 20 years I think we can wrap this up'."
Glover: "So you were thinking 2005?"
Carson: "Yes. And we've kind of passed that deadline."