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In mid-1957 King joined the National Committee of the American Committee on Africa. Later that year he agreed to serve on the International Sponsoring Committee of a day of protest against South Africa’s apartheid government, which the American Committee on Africa had initiated. On behalf of this effort, King and United States chairman James A. Pike call for worldwide rallies and demonstrations on Human Rights Day, 10 December 1957, and announce a freedom rally in New York City on that day, with speakers to include Eleanor Roosevelt.
The Honorable Chester Bowles
Dear Ambassador Bowles:
We are writing to you in the conviction that the time has come for a world-wide protest against the organized inhumanity of the Government of the Union of South Africa. We have watched with great concern the relentless pursuit of official racism (apartheid) by the South African Government. It has defied the most elemental considerations of human decency in its treatment of African and Asian citizens, loosely called non-whites. Our concern has turned to horror as we have learned of the brutal treatment of these non-white South Africans and the extension of totalitarian control into almost every area of human life. What has been almost as shocking is the callous disregard of this tragedy by the free peoples of the world.
No dramatic demonstration of universal protest has been initiated. It is as if we have forgotten that “the bell tolls” for humankind in South Africa too. We cannot permit this organized crime against a whole people to go uncondemned. The Government of South Africa must know that those who cherish freedom repudiate South Africa’s organized inhumanity. We must also demonstrate to those courageous South Africans of all races who struggle to build a free and democratic society that we support their efforts.
At this crucial time, when 156 leaders of the opposition to “apartheid” are being tried for treason because they desire a democratic, multi-racial society, and when new laws injecting racism into the churches, hospitals and universities are about to be passed, we are obliged to record our protest in the hope that the Government of South Africa will respond to moral suasion.
We have therefore agreed to serve as chairmen of an International Committee composed of world leaders in support of a world-wide protest against the South African Government’s apartheid policies. We are calling upon civic, labor, professional, political, church, educational and other leaders throughout the world to join in this campaign. We are urging them to plan public demonstrations on or about Human Rights Day, December 10, 1957, to protest South Africa’s apartheid and to demand that South Africa live up to its obligations under the United Nations Charter. As part of our participation in this campaign, we are sponsoring a freedom rally in New York’s Manhattan Center on the evening of December 10th. Among the speakers will be Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Senator Jacob K. Javits and Mr. Roy Wilkins.
We want to personally extend an invitation to you to participate in this program. Your presence would greatly contribute to the success of this occasion.
We know that you will do everything you can to support this undertaking. We look forward to your affirmative reply.
Very sincerely yours,
[signed] James A. Pike
The Very Rev. James A. Pike
United States Chairman
[signed] Martin Luther King
The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
United States Vice-Chairman