September 24, 2019 Library to Mark 150th Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's Birth with Display of Special Collections

Display Oct. 2 to Feature Letter from Gandhi, Indian Constitution and Gandhi’s Legacy in Civil Rights

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A statue of Mahatma Gandhi outside the Indian Embassy in Washington, D.C. Photo credit: Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

A special display at the Library of Congress will mark the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth on Oct. 2, featuring a letter written in Gandhi’s hand, a rare copy of the Indian Constitution and other items exploring Gandhi’s influence on Martin Luther King Jr. and the U.S. civil rights movement.

The one-day display from the Library’s collections will be presented Oct. 2 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Whittall Pavilion on the ground floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. SE, Washington, D.C. The free display is presented with the Embassy of India as part of India’s ongoing celebration of Gandhi’s legacy of peace and nonviolence.

A signature item on view from the Library’s Asian Division will be Gandhi’s handwritten draft of his essay “A Common Platform,” which was written around 1933. The essay was part of the robust debate among India’s leaders about the future direction of Indian society in the decades before independence from British rule. In the essay written to a judge on the Madras High Court, Gandhi argues against traditionalist laws upholding “untouchability” – or the segregation and oppression of lower-caste people in Indian society. The six-page letter was later published in the English-language journal Harijan in 1933.

The handwritten draft of Gandhi’s “A Common Platform” with his signature was donated to the Library in 1965. It was recently digitized and made available online for the first time.

Other highlights of the display will include:

  • The Constitution of India – The Law Library’s rare book collection holds one of 1,000 photolithographic reproductions of the Indian constitution, which came into effect on Jan. 26, 1950.
  • “What About India?” – A poster designed by Maurice Merlin for the U.S. Work Projects Administration featuring four prominent symbols of India, including Gandhi, to represent the country to an American audience.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Comic Book – This 1957 comic book, “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story” depicts King telling his supporters how Gandhi led a campaign for freedom in India years before using the same nonviolent tactics they had used during the Montgomery bus boycott.
  • Ebony magazine from 1959 – This Ebony magazine article, “My Trip to the Land of Gandhi,” published in July 1959 is Martin Luther King Jr.’s account of his visit to India in 1959. King writes of Gandhi serving as the guiding light of nonviolent social change and says he left India “more convinced than ever before that nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.”
  • Gandhi Murder Trial Transcripts – This rare acquisition of volumes contain a transcript of the murder trial from 1948 to 1949 for Gandhi’s assassination, as well as written statements of witnesses and defendants. The volumes belonged to Gandhi’s primary assassin, Nathuram Godse, and contain handwritten notes by the defendant and his counsel during the trial.

Curators will display and describe the unique collections related to Gandhi and his legacy from across the Library.

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PR 19-095
ISSN 0731-3527