The Friends of the Colusa County Library held its annual meeting on Thursday, February 18, 2016. The group held a quick business meeting before opening to a special presentation by Tenisha Armstrong, Associate Editor of the Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Armstrong discussed the Editorial process of the Papers of Martin Luther King at The Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Educational Institute and her journey throughout the process.
“We first create a calendar of documents in that particular volume and then it is my job to select only 200 documents for publication,” said Armstrong.
Many of the hand-written records were collected through various sources and recalled meeting Dr. King’s wife, Coretta Scott King.
“We had the opportunity to visit and catalog Dr. King’s library, scanning and recording every page ever written, or sheet written on,” said Armstrong, “some of these documents are written by Dr. King and others were written to him.”
“It was getting close to the end of our time at the King home, and Ms. King never came out of her room. Then on the last day, she came out of her room and greeted us. I was overjoyed with emotion as if I was meeting a celebrity,” said Armstrong.
Armstrong also commented the time she met with the family of Theophilus Eugene Connor, known as Bull Connor. Connor was an American politician who served as a Commissioner of Public Safety for the city of Birmingham, Alabama, during the American Civil Rights Movement.
“Everyone thought I was crazy for wanting to meet this family, but I went, and it was an incredible experience,” said Armstrong.
Through the countless of visits, Armstrong commented that the team at ‘The Papers of Martin Luther King” searched endlessly to make connections to the names, and people in photographs hoping to recall that single moment in history during Dr. King’s life.
“Sometimes we never find the person, and there are times we connect with individuals who don’t know that they have something special until we tell them what it is,” said Armstrong, “most of the documents, photographs, audio, and video recordings are sitting in someone’s attic or basement waiting to be discovered.”
After Armstrong and her team collects the information it is digitally recorded, cataloged and then the editing process of digitizing, and annotating.
“There are several, several drafts before the item is even considered for publication. There are times we have to make an editorial decision to cut a paper because the details are not quite clear, and I rather be precise then have to correct later,” said Armstrong.
Armstrong commented that the seventh volume was recently completed. That volume is titled ‘To Save the Soul of America, January 1961-August 1962’.
“It takes about six to seven years per volume,” said Armstrong.
Armstrong was a summer intern at the King Papers Project in 1998 and served as a research assistant for three years before assuming her current position. Armstrong co-edited Volume V: Threshold of a New Decade, January 1959-December 1960 and Volume VII: To Save the Soul of America, January 1961-August 1962 of The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. She is currently working on Volume VIII (September 1962-December 1963).
On a final note, Armstrong commented on her thoughts of Dr. Martin Luther King.
“From the countless documents and letters, I have discovered that Dr. King was more than just a Civil Rights Leader, he was truly a Human Rights Leader,” said Armstrong, “He was trying to save the soul of the human race.”
About the King Papers Project
In 1985, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, the founder of the King Center in Atlanta, selected Stanford historian Clayborne Carson to edit the papers of her late husband. Since then, the King Papers Project has continued its efforts to complete a definitive fourteen-volume edition of King’s most significant sermons, speeches, correspondence, published writings, and unpublished manuscripts. This long-term research and publication venture is being conducted in association with the King Estate, Stanford University, and the University of California Press.