Clayborne Carson

Clayborne Carson (born June 15, 1944) is a professor of history at Stanford University, and director of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute. Since 1985 he has directed the Martin Luther King Papers Project, a long-term project to edit and publish the papers of Martin Luther King Jr.

Clayborne Carson
Clayborne Carson (32973356403).jpg
Clayborne Carson in 2017
Born (1944-06-15) June 15, 1944 (age 76)
Spouse(s)Susan Ann Carson
Academic background
Alma materUniversity of New Mexico
University of California, Los Angeles
(B.A. 1967) (M.A. 1971) (Ph.D. 1975)
ThesisToward Freedom and Community: The Evolution of Ideas in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, 1960-1966 (1975)
Academic work
Era20th century
InstitutionsStanford University
Main interestsCivil Rights Movement
Martin Luther King Jr.


Early lifeEdit

Carson was born on June 15, 1944 in Buffalo, New York; son of Clayborne and Louise Carson. He grew up near Los Alamos, New Mexico, where his was one of a small number of African-American families. He attributes his lifelong interest in the Civil Rights Movement to that experience. "I had this really strong curiosity about the black world, because in Los Alamos the black world was a very few families. When the civil rights movement started, I had this real fascination with it, and I wanted to meet the people in it."[1]

Education and The Civil Rights MovementEdit

Carson attended the University of New Mexico for his first year on college during the 1962-1963 school year. At age 19, Carson met Stokely Carmichael at a national student conference in Indiana. Carmichael convinced him to attend the March on Washington For Jobs and Freedom as a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, pronounced "snick").[2] On August 28, 1963 Carson was overwhelmed to find himself among hundreds of thousands of African Americans at the March. This was the first big thing Carson had done in contribution to the Civil Rights Movement.[3] Recalling the March, at which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial, Carson says, "I have a lot of vivid memories, but not of King's speech." What left the biggest impression, he says, were "the people I met there."[1] The March was also the only time Carson had ever heard Dr. King speak in public.[2]

It wasn't until 1964 after Carson had transferred to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)the he became more active in what he calls the "northern version of the southern struggle",[3] and continued with SNCC.[2] At UCLA Carson Changed his field of study from computer programming to American History. Here he earned his B.A. (1967), M.A. (1971), and wrote his doctoral dissertation on Stokely Carmichael and SNCC which earned him his Ph.D. (1975).[2] While studying at UCLA, he was also involved with anti-Vietnam War protests. He speaks of that experience in his current writing, highlighting the importance of grassroots political activity within the African American freedom struggle.

Professional careerEdit

Clayborne Carson has been a professor at Stanford University for over forty years, where he primarily teaches U.S History and African American History.[4] Carson has taught and lectured in Britain, France, China, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania,[5] and throughout the United States.[6] He teaches and lectures about Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Black Panther Party, and other subjects related to the black struggle and civil rights. He has been a frequent guest on Pacifica Radio station KPFA in Berkeley, California, and has also appeared on programs like NPR's Fresh Air, the Tavis Smiley Show, the Charlie Rose Show, Good Morning America, and the CBS Evening News. Carson is a member of the global council of the California International Law Center at the University of California, Davis School of Law.[5] Carson is also a member of several professional organizations including: the American Historical Association (AHA), the Organization of American Historians (OAH), the Social Science History Association (SSAH), the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History (ASAALH), and the Southern Historical Association.[7]

Carson has also written several books and articles regarding the Civil Rights Movement, and has made contributions to many more as well as documentaries, and interviews.[7] His first book In Struggle: and the Black Awakening of the 1960s was awarded the Fredrick Jackson Turner Award in 1982.[8] Carson was also the Historical Adviser for the film "Freedom on My Mind", which in 1995 was nominated for an Oscar.[8]

In 1985, Coretta Scott King asked Carson to lead a Project in Publishing Dr. Kings previously unpublished works.[4] In an interview conducted in 2008, Carson explains that he initially declined to work as Senior Editor to Dr. Kings works, Carson had "never really thought of [himself] as a King biographer. [He] was a SNCC person", he said referencing the discord between SNCC and Dr. King that occurred during the movement. Carson eventually agreed to oversee the project mentioning that he would not have accepted the job if the family held control over Dr. Kings works. Carson and his staff has spent over 20 years working to edit and publish Dr. Kings works.[9]

On April 3, 2018, Clayborne Carson, as the director of the MLK Research and Education Institute, hosted a screening of a documentary that he helped create called I'm MLK, Jr. After the screening he hosted an additional event celebrating the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s last speech, "I've Been to the Mountaintop".

Personal life and familyEdit

Carson married Susan Ann Beyer in 1967, who at the time was a librarian.[2] She, until her retirement was the managing editor of the King Papers Project, and lives in Palo Alto, California. His son, Malcolm, graduated from Howard University and the University of California's Boalt School of Law, and is currently working as the Managing Attorney for the Legal Aid Foundation in South Los Angeles. His daughter Temera, who is employed by the County of Santa Clara, graduated from San Jose State University with a master's degree in social work, and lives with her three children in East Palo Alto, California.

Awards and achievementsEdit

Select bibliographyEdit

  • Carson, Clayborne (1981). In struggle : SNCC and the Black awakening of the 1960s. Harvard University Press.[10]
  • Senior Academic Adviser "Eyes on the Prize" PBS,1987-1990.[10]
  • co-editor, The Eyes on the Prize Civil Rights Reader. Penguin Books, 1991. ISBN 0-14-015403-5
  • Historical Adviser,"Freedom on My Mind" Tara Releasing, 1994.[10]
  • Co-editor with David Gallen, Malcolm X: the FBI file. Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1991. ISBN 978-0-88184-758-1[2]
  • Co-author with Carol Berkin and others, American Voices A History of the United States. Scott Foresman and Company, 1992. ISBN 0673352579[2]
  • co-author, A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Grand Central Publishers, 1998. ISBN 978-0-446-52346-2
  • co-author, The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. Grand Central Publishers, 2001. ISBN 978-0-446-67650-2
  • co-editor, African American Lives: The Struggle for Freedom. Volume I. Longman, 2004. ISBN 978-0-201-79487-8
  • co-editor, African American Lives: The Struggle for Freedom. Volume II. Longman, 2004. ISBN 978-0-201-79489-2
  • co-author, The Martin Luther King, Jr. Encyclopedia. Greenwood Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-313-29440-2[2]
  • senior editor, The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr.. Vols. 1-4. University of California Press, 1992-2007.
  • co-editor with Kris Shepard, A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr." Warner Books, Inc., 2001. ISBN 0-446-52399-2[2]
  • consultant, Civil Rights Chronicle : the African-American Struggle for Freedom Publications International, Ltd., 2003. ISBN 978-0-785-34924-2[2]
  • Martin's Dream: My Journey and the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. A Memoir. Palgrave MacMillan, 2013. ISBN 978-0-230-62169-5
  • — (2015). "Prologue. Martin's dream : the global legacy of Martin Luther King Jr" (PDF). Bulletin of the German Historical Institute (Washington DC). Supplement 11: 15–21. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 12, 2015.
  • Historical Adviser, "Chicano! History of Mexican American Civil Rights" NLCC Educational Media, 1996 .[10]
  • Historical Adviser, "Black and Jews" 1997 .[10]
  • co-author, "Blacks and Jews in the Civil Rights Movement," in Strangers and Neighbors: Relations between Blacks and Jews in the United States, University of Massachusetts Press, 2000. ISBN 978-1-55849-236-3[11]
  • Author of introduction, Stride Toward Freedom: Montgomery Story. Beacon Press, 2010. ISBN 0807000698[2]
  • Co-Author, This Light is Ours: Activist Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement. WW Norton & Co, 2009. ISBN 0393306046[2]
  • Author of play Passages of Martin Luther King. 1993[6]


  1. ^ a b Diane Manuel, "A Sudden Call", Stanford Today, May/June 1996.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Clayborne Carson." Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2014. Biography In Context, Accessed 21 May 2019.
  3. ^ a b Carson, Clayborne. Interview. Valerie Lampman. 23 May 2019.
  4. ^ a b Clayborne Carson Full Bio. 16 June 2015. 25 May 2019. <>.
  5. ^ a b[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ a b “Clayborne Carson.” Clayborne Carson Biography | King Legacy Series,
  7. ^ a b Clayborne Carson . November 2013. 9 May 2019. <>.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u “Honors and Awards.” The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute, 4 Mar. 2019,
  9. ^ Carson, Clayborne. Interview. Christopher Phelps. Chronicle of High Education, 18 January 2008.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Clayborne Carson . November 2013. 9 May 2019. <>.
  11. ^ "Strangers and Neighbors". University of Massachusetts Press.

External linksEdit