Clayborne Carson

Portrait of Clayborne Carson
Image Credit: Michael Collopy

Clayborne Carson is the Martin Luther King, Jr., Centennial Professor, emeritus, at Stanford University. In 1985, he accepted the invitation of Coretta Scott King to direct a long-term project to edit and publish the papers of her late husband. While directing the King Papers Project at Stanford, he also founded the King Research and Education Institute and served as its director until his retirement at the end of 2021. He continues his educational activities about King, Mahatma Gandhi, and other human rights visionaries as founding director of The World House Project at Stanford's Center for Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. In addition to writing or editing numerous books based on King's papers, Carson's books included the prize-winning In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s, Malcolm X: The FBI File (1991), The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (1998), Martin's Dream: My Journey and the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. (2013). He was also a senior adviser for the award-winning public television series, "Eyes on the Prize," and has assisted in the making of more than two dozen subsequent documentaries, including the series, "Have Your Heard from Johannesburg?" on the global anti-apartheid movement. He has received numerous honorary awards, including an honorary degree from Morehouse College -- the alma mater of King, Jr. & Sr. -- and the Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation"s 2018 International Award for Promoting Gandhian Values Outside India,

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

Although King was the best-known African American of the 20th Century, the editor of his Papers reveals little-known aspects of King's basic identity as a social gospel preacher who unexpectedly became the visionary spokesperson of a mass movement beyond his control.
Although King warned about our alternative futures -- "chaos or community" -- Carson explains how we have failed to recognized the urgency of the question he raised in his final book. Although the question contains only six words, Carson suggests that it is deceptively difficult. How did we get to "here"? Who are "we"? How do we avoid chaos and move toward building a global community?