King's Personal Documents on Display for U.S. Holiday

As the U.S. marks a national holiday in honor of slain black civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, more than 600 of his personal documents are going on display for the first time in Atlanta.

The exhibit -- which includes an early draft of his famed "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington in 1963 -- is a glimpse at the collection of more than 10,000 King papers and books that Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin helped privately acquire for $32 million last summer from Sotheby's auction house.

The mayor pulled off the deal with the help of more than 50 corporate, government and private donors to give the papers to Atlanta's Morehouse College, where King graduated in 1948 with a bachelor's degree in sociology.

Monday would have been King's 78th birthday. He was assassinated in Memphis in 1968.

The Atlanta History Center, where the exhibit will be open until May 13, is anticipating widespread interest of the papers. Until now, the collection has only been displayed at Sotheby's auction house in New York, both last summer and in 2003, in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, when King delivered his "Dream" speech about his hope that people of all races would be treated equally.

Sotheby's has called the collection "an unparalleled gathering of primary documents from Dr. King's most active years."

"The question is often asked, 'Where is the dream coming from?"' said Elizabeth Miller, who curated the Sotheby's exhibit and helped with the smaller Atlanta exhibit. "This exhibit shows the genesis and the struggle of that internal journey."

Meanwhile, King's oldest daughter reminded those remembering her parents that America has not yet attained peace and racial equality.

Yolanda King urged an audience Sunday at Ebenezer Baptist Church -- where her father preached for several years -- to be a force for peace and love, and to use the King holiday Monday to ask tough questions about their own beliefs on prejudice.

"We must keep reaching across the table and, in the tradition of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, feed each other," Yolanda King, 51, said at the end of an hourlong presentation that was part motivational speech, part drama.

This year's King holiday activities were the first since the death of Coretta Scott King, who died Jan. 31 at age 78 of complications from ovarian cancer and after suffering a stroke five months earlier.

Yolanda King, a stage and television actress, performed a series of one-actor skits that told stories including a girl's first ride on a desegregated bus and a college student's recollection of the 1963 desegregation of Birmingham, Alabama.

The performance was attended by members of the extended King family and Yolanda's sister, the Rev. Bernice King.

Yolanda King told The Associated Press that the King holiday provides an opportunity for everyone to live her father's dream, and that she has her mother's example to follow in her death.

"I connected with her spirit so strongly," Yolanda King said when asked how she is coping with her mother's loss. "I am in direct contact with her spirit, and that has given me so much peace and so much strength."

For years, as she worked to establish Jan. 15 as a federal holiday, Coretta Scott King publicly celebrated her husband's birthday at his tomb and at Ebenezer Baptist, where King preached from 1960 to 1968. She founded what would become the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

On Saturday, King's late widow was honored at the annual Salute to Greatness Dinner, a fundraiser for the King Center.

In New York, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards addressed about 1,200 parishioners Sunday at Riverside Church, a multiracial, politically active Manhattan congregation where King delivered his famous "Beyond Vietnam" speech on April 4, 1967.

Edwards called on Americans to resist President George W. Bush's planned troop escalation in Iraq, echoing King's plea 40 years ago to end the Vietnam War. Edwards spoke from the same wooden pulpit King used and was introduced by King's son, Martin Luther King III.