Selected in 1985 by the late Mrs. Coretta Scott King to edit and publish the papers of her late husband, Stanford University historian Clayborne Carson has devoted most his professional life to the study of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the movements King inspired. Under his direction, the King Papers Project has produced six volumes of a definitive, comprehensive edition of speeches, sermons, correspondence, publications, and unpublished writings. Dr. Carson has also edited numerous other books based on King's papers. In 2005 the King Papers Project became part of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, with Dr. Carson serving as the institute's founding director.
A member of Stanford's department of history since receiving his doctorate from UCLA in 1975, Carson has also served as visiting professor or visiting fellow at American University, the University of California, Berkeley, Duke University, Emory University, Harvard University, the Center for the Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, the L'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and at Morehouse College in Atlanta, where during 2009 he was Martin Luther King, Jr. Distinguished Professor and Executive Director of that institution's King Collection.
Dr. Carson's extensive writings reflect not only his research about King but also his undergraduate civil rights and antiwar activism, which led him to appreciate the importance of grassroots political activity as well as visionary leadership in the African-American freedom struggle. His latest book, Martin's Dream: My Journey and the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., a memoir tracing his life from teenage participant in the 1963 March on Washington to internationally-known King scholar. Carson first book, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s, published in 1981, remains the definitive history of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the most dynamic and innovative civil rights organization. In Struggle won the Organization of American Historians' Frederick Jackson Turner Award. His other publications include Malcolm X: The FBI File (1991). Carson also co-authored African American Lives: The Struggle for Freedom (2005), a comprehensive survey of African-American history.
In addition to The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Carson's other works based on the papers include The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (1998), compiled from the King’s autobiographical writings, A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. (1998), and A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (2001).
Dr. Carson wrote “Passages of Martin Luther King,” a play that was initially produced by Stanford’s Drama Department in 1993, and subsequently performed at Dartmouth College, Willamette University, the Claremont Colleges, the University of Washington, Tacoma, and other places. On June 21, 2007, the National Theatre of China performed the international premiere of "Passages" at the Beijing Oriental Pioneer Theatre, and full houses viewed the four subsequent performances of the first drama to bring together Chinese actors and African-American gospel singers. During March and April 2011, the Palestinian National Theater "Al Hakawati" presented the first Arabic production of "Passages" in East Jerusalem, with additional performances in the West Bank communities of Jenin, Nablus, Bethlehem, Hebron, Tulkarem, and Ramallah.
In addition to his books and scholarly writings publications, Dr. Carson has devoted considerable attention to bringing his research and King's ideas to broader public attention. Dr. Carson was a senior historical advisor for a fourteen-part, award-winning, public television series on the civil rights movement entitled "Eyes on the Prize" and co-edited the Eyes on the Prize Civil Rights Reader (1991). In addition, he served as historical advisor for “Freedom on My Mind,” which was nominated for an Oscar in 1995, as well as for “Chicano!” (1996), "Blacks and Jews” (1997), "Citizen King" (2004), "Negroes with Guns: Rob Williams and Black Power" (2005), "Have You Heard from Johannesburg?" (2010) a multipart documentary about the international campaign against apartheid in South Africa, and "Al Helm: Martin Luther King in Palestine" (2013). The Liberation Curriculum initiative that Dr. Carson conceived has become a major source of educational materials about King and the ongoing struggles to achieve peace with social justice, and the King Institute's enormously popular website -- kinginstitute.info -- reaches a diverse, global audience.
Dr. Carson also collaborated with the Roma Design Group of San Francisco to create the winning proposal in an international competition to design the King National Memorial in Washington, D. C., and he has served as an advisor to the King National Memorial Foundation.
Among the many honors and awards Dr. Carson has received, the honorary degree he received in 2007 from Morehouse College had special meaning, because it made him part of the community of Morehouse Men that includes Martin Luther King, Jr. and Sr.
Dr. Carson was born in Buffalo, New York. Before her retirement, his wife, Susan Ann Carson, served as consulting editor of the King Institute. The Carsons, who live in Palo Alto, have two grown children. His son, Malcolm, is a graduate of Howard University and University of California’s Boalt Hall School of Law and currently manages the Legal Aid Foundation office in south-central Los Angeles. His daughter, Temera, received her masters degree in social work from San Jose State University and is employed by the County of Santa Clara. She lives with her three children in East Palo Alto, California.
Lecturing: Dr. Carson has lectured throughout the United States and in many other nations including India, China, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, England, France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Israel, and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. In addition his King lectures, Carson's topics have included Gandhi, Malcolm X, SNCC, the Black Panther Party, nonviolent resistance, and black-Jewish relations. He has appeared on many national radio and television shows, including Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News, The NewsHour, Fresh Air, Morning Edition, Tavis Smiley, Charlie Rose, Democracy Now, and Marketplace. Dr. Carson has also participated in dramatic readings based on his play "Passages of Martin Luther King." For many years, he has delivered lectures on behalf of the Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lectureship Program. Carson's public lectures are arranged through the American Program Bureau: (Ph. 800-225-4575 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org) or through Regina Covington at the King Institute (650-723-2092).