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Clayborne Carson        

Scholar, Author & Civil Rights Historian

Selected in 1985 by the late Mrs. Coretta Scott King to edit and publish the papers of her late husband, Stanford University historian Clayborne Carson has devoted most his professional life to the study of Martin Luther King Jr. and the movements King inspired. Under his direction, the King Papers Project has produced six volumes of a definitive, comprehensive edition of speeches, sermons, correspondence, publications, and unpublished writings. Dr. Carson has also edited numerous other books based on King's papers. In 2005 the King Papers Project became part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, with Dr. Carson serving as the Institute's founding director.

A member of Stanford's Department of History since receiving his doctorate from UCLA in 1975, Carson has also served as visiting professor or visiting fellow at American University, the University of California-Berkeley, Duke University, Emory University, Harvard University, the Center for the Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, the L'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and at Morehouse College in Atlanta, where during 2009 he was Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Professor and Executive Director of that institution's King Collection.

Dr. Carson's extensive writings reflect not only his research about King but also his undergraduate civil rights and antiwar activism, which led him to appreciate the importance of grassroots political activity as well as visionary leadership in the African American freedom struggle. His first book, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s, published in 1981, remains the definitive history of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the most dynamic and innovative civil rights organization. In Struggle won the Organization of American Historians' Frederick Jackson Turner Award. His other publications include Malcolm X: The FBI File. He is co-author of African American Lives: The Struggle for Freedom, a comprehensive survey of African American history.

In addition to The Papers of Martin Luther King Jr., Carson's other works based on the papers include The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr., compiled from the King's autobiographical writings, A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In addition to his books and scholarly writings publications, Dr. Carson has devoted considerable attention to bringing his research and King's ideas to broader public attention. Dr. Carson was a senior historical advisor for a 14-part award-winning public television series on the Civil Rights Movement entitled Eyes on the Prize and co-edited the Eyes on the Prize Civil Rights Reader. In addition, he served as historical advisor for Freedom on My Mind, which was nominated for an Oscar in 1995, as well as for Chicano!, Blacks and Jews, Citizen King, Negroes with Guns: Rob Williams and Black Power (2005), and Have You Heard from Johannesburg?, a multipart documentary about the international campaign against apartheid in South Africa. The Liberation Curriculum initiative that Dr. Carson conceived has become a major source of educational materials about King and the ongoing struggles to achieve peace with social justice, and the King Institute's enormously popular website,, reaches a diverse global audience.

Speech Topics

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Malcolm X: The Man & The Myth

The Remaking of the Black Identity in the 21st Century


Stanford professor Clayborne Carson reflects on March on ...

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Professor Clayborne Carson, Ph.D., is the leading authority on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He is the keeper of all of King's papers and is the head of Stanford's ...

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