Two New Exhibits To Open at LBJ Library on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s Birthday

Jan 12, 2016

On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, LBJ's Condolence Letter to Coretta Scott King to be Displayed for the First Time in a Museum

Featured Alongside Brian Washington's Inspiring Charcoal Drawings of The Continual Struggle

Exhibits Open Friday, Jan. 15, 2016

What: On what would have been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 87th birthday, the LBJ Presidential Library will open two important exhibits related to the civil rights movement.

When: 10:30 a.m.
Press Availability, Friday, Jan. 15, 2016

Who: Mark K. Updegrove, director of the LBJ Library, speaks about significance of President Johnson's letter to Mrs. King; Roy Spence, Austin advertising executive; and, Al Washington, father of the artist, to provide details and context for the artwork.  

Visuals: Photo of LBJ’s letter to Mrs. King. Credit: LBJ Library Photo by Jay Godwin
Drawing: “A Parade of Sympathies” by Brian Washington
Video of Washington’s art:

Media Contact: Anne Wheeler, [email protected], (512) 721-0216
AUSTIN, TX. January 15, 2016 – On what would have been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 87th birthday, the LBJ Presidential Library will open two exhibits in its Great Hall that are particularly important as the nation remembers Dr. King's birthday in January and Black History Month in February. Both exhibits run from Jan. 15-April 10, 2016. The LBJ Library offers free admission on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Jan. 18, 2016.

Lyndon Johnson’s Letter to Coretta Scott King
After Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson wrote a letter of condolence to his widow, Coretta Scott King. In the typed letter, dated April 5, 1968, Johnson writes, "We will overcome this calamity and continue the work of justice and love that is Martin Luther King’s legacy and trust to us." Johnson wrote of his determination to find King's killer.

According to The Washington Post, Mrs. King kept the letter until 2003, when she gave it to the singer, Harry Belafonte. In 2008, Belafonte considered auctioning the letter. The King family objected, the auction was canceled, and, later, Belafonte and the King family reached an agreement. In 2014, Belafonte gifted the letter to his half-sister, Shirley Cooks, who sold it at auction last year for $60,000 to a private collector. The letter from Johnson to Mrs. King will make its public museum debut on Jan. 15, 2016, at the LBJ Library. It was donated by a private collector to the Library's permanent collection late last year.

In recognizing the importance of the letter, LBJ Library Director Mark K. Updegrove said, "It is an extraordinarily valuable piece of American history. Johnson's words capture the anguish of a nation at the death of Dr. King and express resolve in following King's dream of equal rights for all."

The Continual Struggle by Brian Washington
The Continual Struggle is artist Brian Washington's artwork documenting the Civil Rights movement and America's historic struggle against segregation and other forms of race-based disenfranchisement. The exhibit uses visual art as an educational tool and method of storytelling, vividly illustrating people who were willing to put their lives on the line, to protest injustice and inequality. Carefully researched and drawn only in black and white, the 17 stark drawings portray sharecropping, non-violent protest, freedom rides, protest marches, voter registration campaigns, police violence, and the realities that provoked those actions – vividly demonstrating the conflict-ridden nature of social change. 

Washington is a California based artist, attorney, and arts advocate. In explaining why he spent 13 years on the project, he said, "I wanted to depict the triumphant and poignant story of the American Civil Rights struggle through art, as a way of honoring those who have allowed me to live with the freedoms I now enjoy. There has been a continuum of important artists in history who have taken such an approach to art, and I want to carry on this tradition in today’s society."

Former President Bill Clinton, who displays one of Washington's pieces in his office in Harlem, New York, describes why the artwork is significant, "The Continual Struggle is a collection of masterful art, a poignant depiction of America's journey toward a more perfect union, and a remarkable contribution to America’s discussion of the issues it confronts."

As a passionate support of Washington's work, Austin advertising executive Roy Spence says not only is he a great artist, but also a personal friend. "Since my daughter, Courtney Spence, met Brian Washington on the first day at Duke University in August of 1998, Brian has become a forever member of our family," said Spence. "His epic artwork is the story of ‘The Continual Struggle’. Considering his own epic struggle at such a young age with the rare disease, Neurosarcoidosis and the mighty struggle of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, signing into the law the major civil rights legislation of the 1960s, this inspiring exhibit at the LBJ Library is a must go, take it all in visit."

Also attending the media exhibit opening will be Judge Nathaniel Jones, former General Counsel of the NAACP, former Assistant General Counsel to President Lyndon Johnson’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (the Kerner Commission), and former Justice on the U. S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

For more information:

The LBJ Library's Education Department has created educational materials to accompany the exhibit for the use of educators and families. The materials will be available for download from our website: