We Are Not Asking Politely: How letter writers won the campaign to name the library after Dr. King

We Are Not Asking Politely: How letter writers won the campaign to name the library after Dr. King

Jan. 17 - Mar. 31, 2022 | Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, Great Hall

We Are Not Asking Politely: How letter writers won the campaign to name the library after Dr. King tells the story of how D.C.'s downtown central library became the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. 

The exhibition, which is sponsored by the DC Public Library Foundation, is on display on the west side of the Great Hall at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library from Jan. 17 - Mar. 31, 2022. Read on to learn more about the exhibition and see some of the images that are on display.

About the Exhibition | Announcing a New Central Library
Letters from the Community | Opening the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library

About the Exhibition

Only months after Dr. King’s assassination, District residents began to organize tributes to the slain civil rights leader. In early 1970, letter writers launched a campaign to demand that D.C.'s new, modernist library be named in King’s honor. Their activism reveals a larger story about how Black-majority D.C. began to exercise its power. The exhibit features selected letters sent to the Library's Board of Trustees from 1970-1971, and highlights of few of the individuals who were part of the effort. 

All letters in this exhibition are part of the DC Public Library Records, housed in The People’s Archive at DC Public Library. Several of the letters are also on view in the West Gallery of the permanent exhibit, Up from the People, located on the fourth floor. 

Announcing a New Central Library

Program for the Downtown Central Library groundbreaking, 1968
Program for the Downtown Central Library groundbreaking, 1968 
DC Public Library Records, The People's Archive at DC Public Library

Letters from the Community

Letter from Anacostia Citizens and Merchants, Inc., 1971
Letter from Anacostia Citizens and Merchants, Inc., 1971 
DC Public Library Records, The People’s Archive at DC Public Library

Letter from Robert Frazier, 1971
Letter from Robert Frazier, 1971 

DC Public Library Records, The People’s Archive at DC Public Library 

Letter from the Citizens of the Maury Elementary Community School, 1971

Letter from the Citizens of the Maury Elementary Community School, 1971 
DC Public Library Records, The People’s Archive at DC Public Library 

Letter from the National Association of Adult Black Educators, 1971
Letter from the National Association of Adult Black Educators, 1971 
DC Public Library Records, The People’s Archive at DC Public Library 

Letter from the D.C. Republican Committee, 1970
Letter from the D.C. Republican Committee, 1970

DC Public Library Records, The People’s Archive at DC Public Library 

Opening the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library

DC Public Library Board of Trustees name Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library
DC Public Library Board of Trustees name Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, DC Public Library Board of Trustees meeting, January 14, 1971 

DC Public Library Records, The People’s Archive at DC Public Library 


Program for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library opening, 1972 
DC Public Library Records, The People’s Archive at DC Public Library 

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library Dedication Week program, 1972
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library Dedication Week program, 1972 
DC Public Library Records, The People’s Archive at DC Public Library