Stanford University The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute
Volume V: Threshold of a New Decade, January 1959 - December 1960, Introduction

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If my life, with the accompanying trials, tribulations, and difficulties that I have faced for my people have not proven my courage, then there is no way that I can convince anyone. I have lived amid threats, intimidation, physical violence, and even death, and yet I have never run from the situation. I have urged my people at all times to stand up against segregation, and even disobey the segregation laws in order to arouse and awaken the conscience of our nation. I will continue to do this, but I will do it in the right spirit. I will never allow any man to drag me so low as to make me hate him; and above all I will never become bitter.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
15 June 1959

When Martin Luther King, Jr. reviewed his activities in his 1958 annual report to Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, he referred with understatement to his “rather difficult year,” during which he had endured police brutality, a groundless arrest, and a “near fatal stab wound by a mentally deranged woman.” Nevertheless, he reported that the future was “filled with vast possibilities” and he urged his congregation to “move into this uncertain but promising future with the faith that the dawn of a new day is just around the horizon.”1 It had been three years since King’s leadership of the Montgomery bus boycott had propelled him into the national spotlight. His decision to remain a part of the young freedom struggle, with which he was becoming synonymous, had provided him a national pulpit from which to denounce racial injustice, afforded him access to the president, and garnered him considerable fame. At the same time, King and the organizations he led, the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) had failed to build upon the success of the bus protest and the Eisenhower administration remained impervious to their pleas for reform.2 Moreover, his growing notoriety had endangered his safety and that of his family. The 20 September 1958 stabbing had forced King to reduce his relentless pace of activities and, following the advice of his physicians, he cancelled or postponed nearly three months of speaking engagements, allowing his wife to deliver his prepared remarks at the national Youth March for Integrated Schools in October.3 By December King had begun his returned to public life and political engagement, addressing the third annual MIA Institute on Nonviolence and Social Change and a rally in Atlanta.4 With his closest associates, including New York attorney Stanley Levison and pacifist Bayard Rustin, King also continued discussions regarding the direction of SCLC and a long-deferred trip to India that he had been planning since the conclusion of the bus boycott.

Traveling to India offered the hope of a break from the hectic pace King had maintained since his rise to prominence, but it would also served as a transition to a still more demanding period when his efforts were confronted by new challenges. White intransigence would show no signs of abating over the coming months, and public officials in the South continued to tolerate and sometimes actively support acts of segregationist violence. The harassment from Georgia and Alabama officials would put King’s commitment to nonviolent direct action to the test, and though as the upcoming presidential elections promised the possibility of change, the major political parties appeared most concerned with accommodating their southern and conservative constituents. King’s earlier clashes with NAACP general secretary Roy Wilkins and National Baptist Convention president J. H. Jackson continued, but for the first time he would face challenges from African- American leaders who advocated alternative strategies for achieving equality.5 SCLC colleagues Ella J. Baker, James Lawson, and Fred Shuttlesworth had long-served as friendly foils, attempting to persuade King of the importance of developing local movement leadership and engaging in head-on confrontations with segregation. But they would soon be joined by challengers, such as Robert F. Williams, a North Carolina NAACP official who publicly advocated retaliatory violence, as well as other black community leaders who were growing impatient with the federal government’s failure to protect civil rights. Amidst these challenges and against a backdrop of public indifference, a student-led movement unexpectedly infused the southern civil rights struggle with new energy and pushed King toward greater militancy. 

* * *

As he completed his convalescence in Montgomery during the fall of 1958, King decided that the time had finally come to undertake a tour of India to deepen his understanding of Gandhian principles and to assess the movement’s legacy through conversations with Gandhi’s associates and exposure to their social projects.6 Two years earlier Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru had indicated to a group of pacifists that he would welcome such a visit by King.7 King’s associates Rustin and Lawson had traveled to India, and he knew and admired a number of African American leaders who had met with Gandhi – notably Howard Thurman in 1935, Benjamin Mays the following year, and Howard University dean William Stuart Nelson in 1946. Securing funds from the Christopher Reynolds Foundation, the MIA, SCLC, and his own Dexter congregation, he invited Alabama State College professor Lawrence D. Reddick, author of the recently completed King biography Crusader Without Violence, to accompany him and Coretta and to assist in drafting public addresses and press releases while in India.8

While King made travel plans from Montgomery, representatives of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi (Gandhi Memorial Fund), the co-sponsors of the visit, began arranging for King to meet with Indian officials and Gandhian activists during the five-week tour.9 The Nidhi offered the services of a guide, Swami Vishwananda, and helped secure a letter of welcome from Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.10 Vishwananda’s AFSC counterpart, James E. Bristol, director of the Quaker Centre in New Delhi, arranged the itinerary in consultation with Friends in Philadelphia and Bayard Rustin, who served as King’s representative. After a visit with American embassy officials who “were most emphatic that under no circumstances” was he to leave King’s company, Bristol warned his AFSC colleagues in the United States that the visit was attracting considerable interest in India from “all sorts of forces and movements.”  He noted that the significance of King’s tour was heightened by the possibility that it would coincide with the visit of controversial African American entertainer Paul Robeson, who had been feted in the Soviet Union and other countries after the United States Supreme Court overturned a government decision denying him a passport due to his alleged Communist ties. Bristol explained that Robeson and King were “THE two most important American Negroes in Indian eyes.”11

On the morning of 29 January, King departed Montgomery for several engagements, including a visit with AFSC officials in Philadelphia on 2 February to work out last minute details of the trip. That evening in New York he addressed the annual dinner of the War Resisters League (WRL), during which he praised the league’s work and linked the domestic struggle for racial justice with the campaign for global disarmament: “What will be the ultimate value of having established social justice in a context where all people, Negro and White, are merely free to face destruction by strontium 90 or atomic war?”12 Late the following evening, King and his traveling companions boarded their overseas flight at New York’s Idlewild Airport. Reddick recalled that they “chatted for an hour or so” before Coretta King noticed her husband dozing and cradled his head as he reclined over several seats on the uncrowded plane – “There she was: the serene Madonna, strong and protective.”13

After a brief stopover in London, the King party continued on 6 February to Paris where Reddick had arranged a meeting with Richard Wright, the expatriate African American novelist he had known during his years in New York. Reddick recalled a far-reaching discussion about race and politics at Wright’s apartment: “Coretta and I threw in a point now and then but we were content to observe the giants in intellectual action. Both were short and brown-skinned but Dick was intense, always reaching for a thought or phrase while Martin was relaxed and un-spirited.” As the group grew more comfortable, there was much “giggling and cutting up, imitating first one, then another personal friend or public figure.”14 Reddick recounted that Wright’s response to King “was never more enthusiastic about any person that the two of us had known.” Wright told Reddick that King lacked “that preacher fakery that I always look for in those sermon-on-the-mount boys,” and King later indicated his own enthusiasm for Wright: “Now, I really understand his writings. He can tell a story as vividly as he writes it.” King asked Reddick to arrange a visit to Montgomery, but Wright died the following year.15

From Paris the group traveled to Zurich, where they missed a connecting flight to New Delhi when fog prevented the plane from landing. While hundreds of Indians waited in vain for King’s arrival in India’s capital, a later flight took them to Bombay on 9 February. The three travelers were shocked by their initial encounter with Indian poverty on the drive to Bombay’s Taj Mahal Hotel. “The sight of emaciated human beings wearing only a dirty loincloth, picking through garbage cans both angered and depressed my husband,” Coretta King wrote in her memoir. “Never, even in Africa, had we seen such abject, despairing poverty.”16 Although told that the Indian government discouraged begging, King himself remembered finding it difficult to resist pleas of desperation: “What can you do when an old haggard woman or a little crippled urchin comes up and motions to you that she is hungry?”17 As would often be the case in his comments about India, King combined his observations with implicit criticisms of his own country: “They are poor, jammed together and half starved but they do not take it out on each other,” he generalized. “They do not abuse each other – verbally or physically – as readily as we do.”18

By the time the King party arrived at New Delhi’s Palam Airport on 10 February, there was a smaller crowd of well-wishers and curious onlookers than had been waiting two days earlier, but the “press, news photographers, and news-reel cameramen were there in full force.”19 G. Ramachandran and Sucheta Kripalani of the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi greeted the party with garlands as they disembarked from their plane. After being escorted to the Janpath Hotel, King conducted his first press conference. “To other countries I may go as a tourist,” he announced, “but to India I come as a pilgrim.”20 King commented on the impact of Gandhi’s ideas on the Montgomery bus boycott and other southern protests. “We have found them to be effective and sustaining – they work!”  he was quoted as saying. Although King conceded that not all African Americans shared his views on nonviolence, he affirmed that he had “come to look at non-violence as a philosophy of life.”21

That evening the Kings and Reddick drove through guarded iron gates past flowered lawns to Nehru’s residence, Teen Murti Bhavan, a classic sandstone structure built by the British. Nehru had accommodated his delayed guests by inviting them to join a previously scheduled dinner with Lady Mountbatten, wife of the last viceroy of India, as well as her daughter and Nehru’s daughter, Indira Gandhi.22  Holding loosely to an agenda they had worked out beforehand, the Kings and Reddick spoke to Nehru about the potential for nonviolent resistance in the area of international politics.23 Reddick recalled that the prime minister “responded by saying that as an individual and follower of Gandhi he favored non-violent resistance in every phase of life – between persons, groups and nations; but as a head of state, in a world that had not accepted the non-violent principle, it would be folly for one country to go very far down that road alone.”24 Nevertheless, Nehru declared, India “should never give up trying to persuade other countries to adopt the non-violent approach to international affairs.”25

Nehru also informed his guests about India’s efforts to eliminate discrimination based on caste and defended the policy of giving preference to untouchables in competition for university admission. King recalled that when Reddick asked whether this constituted discrimination, Nehru admitted, “Well, it may be,” but argued it was India’s this is our way of atoning for the centuries of injustices we have inflicted upon these people.”26 King later remarked that he was “surprised and delighted” that Indian leaders had “placed their moral power” behind antidiscrimination laws protecting untouchables, while “in the United States some of our highest officials decline to render a moral judgment on segregation and some from the South publicly boast of their determination to maintain segregation.”27 Following this discussion, Nehru considered the King party’s suggestion of the possibility of offering scholarships for black students to attend Indian universities but admitted he had not yet considered the notion of “poor” India offering scholarships to students from “rich” America.28

King came away from the discussion impressed by Nehru as “an intellectual and a man charged with the practical responsibility of heading the government” and someone seeking to “steer a middle course” between Gandhi’s emphasis on local economic self-sufficiency and western-style modernization. Nehru, he explained, “felt that some industrialization was absolutely necessary” and believed that “pitfalls” could be avoided “if the state keeps a watchful eye on the developments.”29 Reddick remembered the four hours of conversation as “a wonderful evening” and contrasted the warm reception with the fact that “Martin had never been to dinner in the White House.”30

Continuing on their busy schedule, the Kings visited Rajghat the following day to lay a wreath on the site of Gandhi’s cremation. Bristol recalled that they were “obviously deeply moved” and that Martin “knelt in prayer” following the ceremony.31 In Delhi the King party also met with India’s president, Rajendra Prasad, and its vice president, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan.32 Particularly impressed by the latter talk with the “philosopher-politician,” Coretta King noted that her husband compared sessions with India’s leaders to “meeting George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison in a single day.”33

On 13 February the Kings left Delhi for Patna and over the next week they visited a number of cities including Gaya, Calcutta, and Madras. Bristol recounted that during a train ride from Patna to Gaya, in the state of Bihar, King visited with socialist activist Jayaprakash Narayan, who outlined his ideas on decentralism.34 Bristol also reported on the visits to two Gramdan (cooperatively owned) villages where the party experienced rural life, eating seated “on the ground from banana leaves,” and a student meeting in Madras and that was “among the best in the entire trip.”35  Vishwananda would later describe Martin King as “impressed” and Coretta “moved” by their visit to Gandhigram, an institute for rural development, where “five-hundred-strong Shantisena [Peace Army] in spotless white khadi received Dr. King and gave him a salute.”36

The enthusiastic reception King received in Trivandrum on 22 February had special importance given its status as the capital of Kerala, the only Indian state with a Communist government and the only state not governed by Nehru’s Congress Party. Bristol noticed the contrast between the warm reception accorded King and that given to New York governor Averill Harriman’s arrival two days later: “Then there was only one government representative on hand; nobody else; no garlands, no bouquets, no photographers. King’s tour was popular and triumphal as Harriman’s was not.”37 Unplanned incidents made indelible impressions on King. Years later he recalled that when a principal of a school attended largely by children of former untouchables introduced him as “a fellow untouchable,” he was at first “a bit shocked and peeved,” but he then reflected on the “airtight cage of poverty” that afflicted African Americans “in rat-infested, unendurable slums in the big cities of our nation, still attending inadequate schools faced with improper recreational facilities. And I said to myself, ‘Yes, I am an untouchable, and every Negro in the United States of America is an untouchable.’”38

King also had lasting memories of his brief journey to nearby Cape Comorin at India’s southern tip late one afternoon: “It is one of the beautiful points in all the world,” he later told his Dexter congregation. At the convergence of the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean, and the Arabian Sea, he remembered sitting on a rock, watching the sun set “like it was sinking in the very ocean itself.” After the sky darkened, he noticed a full moon rising in the east: “This is one of the few points in all the world that you could see the setting of the sun and the emergence of the moon simultaneously.” King drew spiritual significance from the serene surroundings: “For when it was dark and tragedy around, it seemed that the light of day had gone out, darkness all around and sunlight passing away, I got enough strength in my being to turn around and only to discover that God had another light. This would be a tragic universe if God had only one light.”39

By the time King’s party they flew to Bangalore on 24 February, Bristol recognized that their schedule arranged for King had been too ambitious, resulting in cancelled or delayed meetings and some frustration on the part of Indians who were eager to meet King. In reports that evening and the following day that were forwarded to AFSC headquarters, he indicated that they had trimmed changed the itinerary into “the sort of schedule King had in mind.” Bristol observed that “both the Kings (especially King himself) are JUST PLAIN EXHAUSTED and very understandably have been so for months before coming to India.”40 Bristol’s account of the three days in Bombay suggests that the reduced schedule suited King. Moving from the luxurious accommodations they had in Calcutta and Madras, the party chose Mani Bhavan, Gandhi’s Bombay residence, in Bombay, where they “enjoyed simple accommodations in an authentically Gandhian atmosphere.” King left his impressions in the Mani Bhavan guest book:  “To have the opportunity of sleeping in the house where Gandhiji slept is an experience that I will never forget.”41 A public meeting on 27 February attracted “about 400 really top-calibre people,” including former U.S. ambassador G. L. Mehta, to King’s “inspired” presentation.42 The following day, King met with African students studying in Bombay who challenged him regarding the effectiveness of nonviolence. “They felt that non-violent resistance could only work in a situation where the resisters had a potential ally in the conscience of the opponent,” King later reflected in Ebony magazine. “We soon discovered that they, like many others, tended to confuse passive resistance with non-resistance.”43 Traveling north to Ahmedabad on 1 March, the King party went to the Sabarmati Aashram, which had been founded by Gandhi and was where he began his 1930 Salt March to the sea to protest British taxation of salt. Vishwananda recalled that “the Kings had a great experience going round the hallowed place and meeting in prayer the six hundred” residents, many of whom were untouchables.44

On 3 March, King rose in the early morning hours for a drive toward Kishangarh, where the party was scheduled to meet with Acharya Vinoba Bhave, the leader of the Bhoodan (land distribution) movement and Gandhi’s spiritual successor. Just outside of town they met up with the peripatetic Vinoba and a group of his followers who traveled India on foot, persuading landlords to provide land to the poor. Reddick recalled that Vinoba embraced King, and the two men walked together, Vinoba shortening “his long strides in order that Martin could keep up.”45 After the marchers entered Kishangarh, Vinoba addressed local residents and then retired to his room in a school building, where King presented questions to him. During this structured exchange, which was later reported in the weekly Bhoodan, Vinoba replied to King’s query about his “hopes for the future” by insisting that “either there will be ‘Kingdom of Kindness’ or there will be no society.46 Vinoba declined King’s request for a message “for the United States in terms of racial justice and world peace,” stating that he was “not so presumptuous as to send a message to a Christian nation.” But Vinoba did advise Americans to “simply follow Jesus Christ” rather than “listen to flocks of sermons.”47

Although Vinoba abruptly ended the morning interview by announcing, “I have finished your questions,” King was granted a less formal audience in the evening During this later meeting, King talked about Montgomery and pressed Vinoba about the limitations of nonviolence. Given that totalitarian regimes “are composed of human beings” rather than people of “a different species,” Vinoba maintained that “non-violence and its effective appeal to others requires faith. Mere argument and persuasion is not enough.”48 King was greatly affected by the hours he spent with Vinoba, whom he later called “sainted.” While conceding that his ideas “sound strange and archaic to Western ears,” he was impressed that “millions of acres of land have been given up by rich landlords and additional millions of acres have been given up to cooperative management by small farmers.” He also observed that “the Bhoodanists shrink from giving their movement the organization and drive that we in America would venture to guess that it must have in order to keep pace with the magnitude of the problems that everybody is trying to solve.”49

As the visit entered its final week, Bristol had hoped that the Kings and Reddick would spend two more days with Vinoba, but the group went back to Delhi ahead of schedule. Disappointed that other events that did not go as expected during the remaining four days of the tour, Bristol complained vehemently to Friends in Philadelphia that the trip had been “ARRANGED AT TOO SHORT NOTICE” and had suffered from  “insufficient communication (worse than that, practically no communication) between [the] Kings and AFSC.” Bristol observed that the Kings possessed a “fanatical interest in snapshots” and “newspaper publicity,” and concluded that “one of the motives clearly appeared to be to build King up as a world figure, and to have this build-up recorded in the US.” Both Bristol and his AFSC colleagues suspected Rustin’s heavy hand in seeking to use the trip to enhance King’s profile and increase his political capital.50 Despite Bristol’s disappointment criticisms of the trip, he reported that “the net effect of the King trip seems to have been very, very Good!”51

On 9 March, on his last full day in India, King delivered a farewell address to reporters gathered at the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi and then recorded similar remarks for broadcast on All India Radio. Thanking those who had made his “short stay both pleasant and instructive,” he remarked that he and his traveling companions would not be “rash enough to presume that we know India.” Nonetheless, he suggested “that the spirit of Gandhi is much stronger today than some people believe.” He then offered his most controversial public pronouncement of the India tour by repeating Vinoba Bhave’s suggestion that India disarm unilaterally: “It may be that just as India had to take the lead and show the world that national independence could be achieve nonviolently, so India may have to take the lead and call for universal disarmament.”52

Reflecting on his trip a few months later, King reiterated his call for aid to India: “It is in the interest of the United States and the West to help supply these needs and not attach strings to the gifts.53 Touched by India’s reception of him “with open arms,” King related that Gandhians had “praised our experiment with the non-violent resistance technique at Montgomery.” The tour party had been looked “upon as brothers with the color of our skins as something of an asset,” but “the strongest bond of fraternity was the common cause of minority and colonial peoples in America, Africa and Asia struggling to throw off racialism and imperialism.”54  Buttressing his calls for nonviolence in the United States, King elaborated on his discussions with skeptical African students in India: “While I understand the reasons why oppressed people often turn to violence in their struggle for freedom, it is my firm belief that the crusade for independence and human dignity that is now reaching a climax in Africa will have a more positive effect on the world, if it is waged along the lines that were first demonstrated in that continent by Gandhi himself.” King also gave implicit support to India’s effort to find a middle road between capitalism and communism, predicting that India could “be a boon to democracy” by proving ‘that it is possible to provide a good living for everyone without surrendering to a dictatorship of either the ‘right’ or ‘left.’” King depicted India as “a tremendous force for peace and non-violence . . . where the idealist and the intellectual are yet respected. We should want to help India preserve her soul and thus help to save our own.”55

Departing from Delhi on 10 March, the Kings flew to Karachi, Pakistan, and continued to Beirut, Lebanon, where they spent the night before traveling through Damascus to Jerusalem. His brief tour of the Middle East gave King an opportunity to increase his awareness of the ongoing conflict between Israel and the surrounding Arab states. In a sermon preached a few weeks after the trip, King avoided taking a stand on the Arab- Israeli conflict, but he noted its consequences in the partitioned city: “And so this was a strange feeling to go to the ancient city of God and see the tragedies of man’s hate and his evil, which causes him to fight and live in conflict.”56

King’s pilgrimage to the Jerusalem’s holy sites was typical of the “Stations of the Cross” guided tours taken by Christian visitors to Jerusalem, although his theological and biblical studies deepened the meaning of his observations and strengthened his own identification with the travails of Jesus. King visited the Garden of Gethsemane, the reputed site of Jesus’s betrayal by his disciple Judas Iscariot, and later reflected on tragic aspects of the garden of life when “even those people that we have confidence in and that we believe in and that we call our friends fail to understand us. And in the most difficult moments of life, they leave us going the road alone.” The story of Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus carry his the cross became a metaphor of for the freedom struggles of the world’s colored people: “And in all of our struggles for peace and security, freedom and human dignity, one day God will remember that it was a black man who aided his only begotten son in the darkest hour of his life.” At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, according to tradition the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, King recalled an epiphany: “There was something that overwhelmed me, and before I knew it I was on my knees praying . . . I was weeping. This was a great, world shaking, transfiguring experience.”57

* * *

Upon returning home from his travels on 21 March, King confronted SCLC’s continued ineffectiveness. Fund-raising efforts had attracted only slightly more than two thousand dollars in contributions during the period from December 1958 through the end of March 1959, and the group’s depleted financial resources were insufficient to cover the salaries of associate director Ella Baker and executive director John Tilley.58 Much of the blame for SCLC failings fell on Tilley, who found it difficult to balance his organizational responsibilities in Atlanta with the needs of his congregation at Baltimore’s New Metropolitan Baptist Church. When Jesse Hill, the chair of Atlanta’s All-Citizens Registration Committee, reported to King early in 1959 on SCLC’s local efforts in Atlanta, he pointedly called attention to Tilley’s periods of absence from the city and noted that “registration efforts require experienced direction from day to day.”59 King defended Tilley, but the issue of his future was a prime topic for discussion when SCLC’s administrative committee met on 2 April.60 Lawrence Reddick’s notes of the meeting suggest that King and other SCLC leaders had already decided that Tilley should be dismissed. The Committee also recognized that SCLC’s poor financial situation necessitated severe personnel cutbacks and decided that only Baker should be retained “at a reduced salary.”61

The administrative committee also discussed the more general question of how to reinvigorate SCLC and the southern civil rights movement. Reddick’s notes reveal that King’s suggestion that Bayard Rustin join SCLC’s staff prompted Birmingham World editor Emory Jackson to label Rustin a communist. Reddick recalled that he “pointed out the dangers of the ‘enemy’ using” Rustin’s brief membership in the Communist Party and his homosexuality his record “to smear SCLC” and recommended using him exclusively in unofficial capacities.62 Given their inability to find a minister to replace Tilley immediately, Baker again assumed the executive leadership of the organization, a capacity in which she had served before his hiring the previous year.

The following day SCLC leaders discussed King’s own commitment to the organization. According to Reddick, Baker “really came to lay him out and abuse him” for not spending enough time on SCLC. King defended himself against the charge that he was spending too much time delivering speeches by insisting “that an artist . . . not be denied his means of expression,” but Reddick noted that Baker’s complaints resonated with his own suggestion to King - made while they were traveling in India - that he would have to choose between devoting himself “full time to Crusading” or retaining his salary as Dexter’s pastor. Reddick predicted that King would never give up being a clergyman and thus would remain “a crusader in a gray flannel suit” rather than becoming “a Vinoba Bhave.”63

After the meetings King quickly informed Tilley of the committee’s decision and explained  that it resulted from “the financial crisis confronting the organization” and Tilley’s failure “to achieve the public response expected.”64 As Tilley made clear when he submitted his resignation, SCLC’s problems resulted from more than the deficiencies of one individual. Cautioning that the achievement of SCLC’s goals would “require time and patience,” Tilley offered a list of the daunting obstacles facing the group, including “the limited staff for the many varied demands, the non-spectacular nature of the educational process, and the lack of funds.”65

* * *

Despite SCLC’s internal crisis and Baker’s criticisms, King resumed his busy speaking schedule as well as his pastoral obligations. On 18 April he was once again in the national spotlight as the concluding speaker at the second Youth March for Integrated Schools. Black labor leader A. Philip Randolph and Rustin had been sufficiently encouraged by the 1958 Youth March to plan a larger demonstration that would mobilize young people throughout the nation to circulate petitions urging the Eisenhower administration and Congress to implement the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision.66 Although Roy Wilkins feared that the Youth March might compete with the NAACP’s efforts, Randolph assured him that the march was intended simply as “an ad hoc project” and would not result in a permanent organization.67 With King’s help, Randolph and Rustin managed to secure widespread support for the event, including the backing of the National Student Association and other campus-based groups.68 Indeed, as support for the march increased during the spring of 1959, march organizers became concerned about the involvement of the Socialist Workers Party, prompting them to issue a statement repudiating rumors that “anti-American” demonstrators might picket the White House and discouraging “the participation of these groups” and “individuals or other organizations holding similar views.”69

On the morning of the protest, a four-student delegation marched to the gates of the White House where Gerald Morgan, Eisenhower’s deputy assistant, informed them that the president was not there, but nonetheless shared their concerns and would not “be satisfied until the last vestige of discrimination has disappeared.”70 After a fifteen minute conversation with Morgan, the delegation joined more than twenty thousand other marchers, including King, who sang “We Shall Not Be Moved” as they walked toward the Sylvan Theater on the grounds of the Washington Monument. Opening the program, Randolph promised to return to Washington “again and again” until blacks were given equal education and civil rights laws were passed.71 After speeches by Wilkins, Kenyan labor leader Tom Mboya, and entertainer Harry Belafonte, King took the stage to give a brief address.72 Returning to the theme of voting rights that had marked his speech at the 1957 Prayer Pilgrimage in Washington, he asserted that SCLC intended to increase the number of black registered voters in the South to three million. This, he asserted, would “change the composition of Congress,” opening the way for school desegregation. King acknowledged the students’ growing interest in racial equality and declared that “a hundred years from now the historians will be calling this not the ‘beat’ generation, but the generation of integration.”73

There is little evidence that the Youth March had much impact on Eisenhower or on Congress, which failed to pass proposed legislation that would bolster the 1957 Civil Rights Act. Nonetheless, the mobilization of protesters strengthened the organizational links between SCLC, the labor movement, and other social reform organizations. Furthermore, participation in the march provided thousands of young people with an outlet for their support of integration. Michael Harrington, Eleanor Norton, Jack O’Dell, Tom Kahn, Norman Hill, Robert Moses, and dozens of other young activists who would later become key figures in the civil rights movement gained important organizing experience working with Rustin and other organizers. King left Washington to deliver a series of sermons and speeches in the Chicago area and New York. Over the next several weeks he also appeared on the Canadian television program “Front Page Challenge” before returning to Washington to address the Conference of Religious Leaders sponsored by the President’s Committee on Government Contracts.74  Events in the South that spring, however, served as a reminder of racist intransigence while underscoring the need for SCLC to take bolder steps to force the federal government to protect black civil rights. On the evening of 24 April, a twenty-three year old rape suspect, Mack Charles Parker, was seized from a jail in Poplarville, Mississippi; his body was found ten days later in the Pearl River near the Louisiana border. A week later, a black college student in Tallahassee, Florida, was abducted while on a double date and brutally raped by four white men. From Birmingham Fred Shuttlesworth, the embattled activist minister, reported on a rash of racist kidnappings and assaults over the previous few days. Urging SCLC to adopt more aggressive protest strategies, Shuttlesworth warned King: “I believe that time is running out for this thing to be done. ”75

* * *

 King’s meetings with Indian leaders and, earlier, with Ghanaian prime minister Kwame Nkrumah, strengthened his belief that the southern struggle was part of a worldwide movement against racist oppression and colonialism.76 His identification with African freedom struggles was solidified in Atlanta on 13 May when he introduced Kenyan labor leader and legislator Tom Mboya during an SCLC-sponsored dinner honoring Mboya's work toward independence from Great Britain. King located the U.S. civil rights movement within the “worldwide revolution for freedom and justice,” and explained “we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”77 In his reply to a 16 June letter from Mboya, King continued this line of thought noting that “there is no basic difference between colonialism and segregation. They are both based on a contempt for life, and a tragic doctrine of white supremacy. So our struggles are not only similar; they are in a real sense one.”78 These links to anticolonial struggles were more than rhetorical expressions of good will; they fortified King’s domestic civil rights agenda. King’s speeches and correspondence with public officials during this period increasingly cited American cold war vulnerabilities as a reason to for reform. Writing to Eisenhower shortly before Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev’s visit, King suggested that “it would be tragic should his visit coincide with tension and violence accompanying the desegregation of some schools.” The following year he warned an audience in Charlotte that “the price that America must pay for the continued oppression of the Negro is the price of its own destruction.” He added that his recent travels had left him convinced that “America is at its lowest ebb in international prestige; and most of this loss of prestige is due to our failure to grapple with the problem of racial injustice.79

Even as the international implications of nonviolent protest became a more central part of his oratory, King’s long-term optimism was chastened by his realization that he must demonstrate that Gandhian principles could become a basis for an effective civil rights reform strategy. The steady prodding he received from Baker and Shuttlesworth only offered hints of the unexpected challenge he faced from Robert F. Williams, the NAACP branch leader who had organized an armed self-defense group in Monroe, North Carolina. In May Williams attracted considerable press attention when he called for retaliation when an all-white jury acquitted a white man accused of raping a black woman.80 After the NAACP’s national office suspended Williams, he appealed his case to delegates attending the group’s national convention in July. King’s address at the convention provided an opportunity to reaffirm his own commitment to nonviolence. “We all realize that there will probably be some sporadic violence during this period of transition, and people will naturally seek to protect their property and person,” he explained, “but for the Negro to privately or publicly call for retaliatory violence as a strategy during this period would be the gravest tragedy that could befall us.”81

Although Wilkins was able to convince delegates to uphold his suspension of Williams, King felt there was a need to elaborate on address the issues that had been raised.  He accepted an invitation from Liberation magazine to respond to Williams’ article arguing that nonviolence was an unrealistic strategy for African Americans. While praising King as “a great and successful leader of our race,” Williams insisted that nonviolence was “made to order” for the Montgomery bus boycott but cautioned that black southerners often confronted “the necessity of combating savage violence.”82

Facing an articulate protagonist, King fashioned a thoughtful defense of his position. Conceding some ground to Williams, he acknowledged that the “principle of self-defense, even involving weapons and bloodshed, has never been condemned, even by Gandhi, who sanctioned it for those unable to master pure nonviolence.” He nonetheless saw “incalculable perils” in Williams’s approach, arguing that it would “mislead Negroes into the belief that this is the only path and place them as a minority in a position where they confront a far larger adversary than it is possible to defeat in this form of combat.” King insisted that his own nonviolent approach offered a workable alternative to violence. Recognizing that armed self-defense and retaliation had long been accepted strategies for self-preservation among Southern African Americans, King insisted that “persistent and unyielding” protest required “bold” and “brave” activists: “It requires dedicated people, because it is a backbreaking task to arouse, to organize, and to educate tens of thousands for disciplined, sustained action. From this form of struggle more emerges that is permanent and damaging to the enemy than from a few acts of organized violence.” He concluded by defending himself against Williams’s charge that his opposition to war should have included nuclear war. “I have unequivocally declared my hatred for this most colossal of all evils and I have condemned any organizer of war, regardless of his rank or nationality,” he wrote. “I have signed numerous statements with other Americans condemning nuclear testing and have authorized publication of my name in advertisements appearing in the largest circulation newspapers in the country, without concern that it was then ‘unpopular’ to so speak out.”83

King felt similarly compelled to respond to the growing notoriety of the black separatist group Nation of Islam, who were brought to the attention of the general public through a highly publicized television documentary and a Time magazine feature in the late summer. Speaking to the National Bar Association in Milwaukee, King warned against “hate groups arising in our midst” and cautioned that it was necessary to “avoid both external physical violence and internal violence of spirit.”84

* * *

The challenges from the militants  provided King another indication during 1959 that he could not take for granted his preeminent position in the southern civil rights struggle. Looking to the end of its third year, SCLC had done little to stimulate mass protest and insurgency. King had applauded signs of increased student activism in his speeches at the Youth March for Integrated Schools and at the NAACP convention on 17 July, but his own organization had not initiated or sustained any protest movements. His public statements continued to define a modest mission for the group. “This organization came into being in order to serve as a channel through which local protest organizations in the south could coordinate their activities,” he explained to a Mississippi audience during September. Although King ambitiously described SCLC’s “basic aim” as the implementation of “the Supreme Court's desegregation decisions on the local level through mass, direct, non-violent action,” he added that “at the present time” the group was “joining with other organizations to increase the number of Negro registered voters in the South.”85 But even in the field of voter registration, King could point to few achievements.  When the executive committee met in Columbia, South Carolina, on 30 September he admitted to his colleagues that “we have not really scratched the surface in this area,” blaming the failure on the lack of “any genuine cooperation and coordination between national and local organizations working to increase the vote,” a reference to the continuing tensions in SCLC’s relations with the NAACP.86

The discussion in South Carolina focused not only on SCLC’s future direction but also on the concern Baker had raised the previous April – that is, King’s part-time leadership. Committee members quickly agreed that King should “seriously consider giving the maximum of his time and energies” to SCLC.87 They recognized, however, that SCLC required much more than simply King’s full-time commitment. Having dismissed Tilley, SCLC leaders they were still undecided about how to invigorate their organization. Ella Baker continued to press for a greater emphasis on local organizing and direct action. Her queries to the leadership in her director’s report conveyed broad criticisms of the group’s direction: “Have we been so busy doing the things that had to be done that we have failed to [do] what should be done? Have we really come to grips with what it takes to do the job for which SCLC was organized; and are we willing to pay the price?” Baker’s list of three “basic aims of SCLC” suggested a redirection toward “coordinated action by local groups,” the development of “potential leaders,” and “a vital movement of nonviolent direct mass action.” Deriding SCLC’s lack of “reflective thinking and planning,” she concluded her recommendations with a challenge: “I am convinced that SCLC can and should play a unique role in the struggle for human rights; but I am equally convinced that this can not be done by following, or even approximating ‘usual procedures.’ SCLC must present creative leadership that will bestir dynamic mass action.” Baker complained that planning meetings and other events had “been not only physically exhausting, but intellectually frustrating and spiritually depleting.”88 The executive committee responded to Baker’s report by authorizing a committee – Abernathy, Reddick, Shuttlesworth, Samuel Williams, and Joseph Lowery – to meet with her and “work out the  program for next year.”89

As King gradually recognized that he would have to leave Montgomery to devote more time to SCLC, he also decided that Rustin should be hired to assist him in handling press relations. Though the executive committee had approved the idea of hiring a part-time staff member, King did not announce his choice of Rustin until several weeks later. While acknowledging “the possible perils involved” he insisted that “Rustin’s unique organizational ability, his technical competence, and his distinctive ability to stick with the job until it is thoroughly completed, justifies our willingness to take the risk.”90 Levison later reported in a 1 November letter to Rustin that Baker had expressed her opposition “firmly and unyieldingly,” citing Rustin’s vulnerabilities as a homosexual as well as an ex-communist and insisting that the hiring of a field secretary should take priority. “The substance and method of her argumentation became so provoking,” Levison informed Rustin, that SCLC colleague Joseph Lowery “took Martin aside and suggested that they agree to hire you and simultaneously to fire” Baker.91 

As news of his imminent departure from Montgomery leaked to the press during November, King considered how best to explain his decision to leave Dexter.92 In a draft of his resignation statement to the congregation on 29 November, he admitted that he had been “unprepared for the symbolic role that history had thrust upon me.” him. As a result of the Montgomery bus boycott, he recalled, “new responsibilities poured in upon me in almost staggering torrents.”93 Speaking to a Jet reporter after the announcement, King confessed: “What I have been doing is giving, giving, giving and not stopping to retreat and meditate like I should - to come back. If the situation is not changed, I will be a physical and psychological wreck.”94 An SCLC press release described the move to Atlanta, where he would join his father as co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, as “a painful decision” made necessary because King needed to be closer to SCLC headquarters when “the time was right for expanded militant action across the South.” The statement offered assurances that King would maintain his MIA ties and quoted one of Dexter’s “oldest members” as saying, “Rev. King will not truly be leaving us because part of him always will remain in Montgomery, and at the same time, part of us will go with him.”95 As black leaders in Atlanta publicly applauded King’s return to his birthplace, Georgia governor Ernest Vandiver announced that King would face police surveillance upon his arrival, maintaining that “anyone, including King, who comes across our state lines with the avowed intention of breaking laws will be kept under surveillance at all times.”96 Ralph McGill, editor of the Atlanta Constitution, worried privately that King’s return would lessen the chances for Atlanta to resolve the issue of school desegregation.97 King spent much the months of December and January planning details of the move and transferring the leadership of the MIA to Abernathy. On 3 December he delivered his final report as president of the MIA to an “emotionally charged crowd of 900 Negroes” at Bethel Baptist Church. King recounted the organization’s recent achievements and defended it against accusations that the local movement had atrophied. “If you have any final doubts about our aliveness, talk with the candidates who ran for reelection in the city last spring and they will have to admit that they are out of business because the MIA is very much in business,” King said, referring to the election defeats of segregationist mayor W. A. Gayle and city commissioner Clyde Sellers. He then endorsed the MIA’s continuing efforts to desegregate the city’s parks and schools and expressed his confidence in the group’s future: “The freedom struggle in Montgomery was not started by one man, and it will not end when one man leaves. The Montgomery story was never a drama with only one actor. More precisely it was always a drama with many actors, each playing his part exceedingly well.”98

Five days later King traveled to an SCLC board meeting in Birmingham, after which he endured blaring sirens from police and fire vehicles sent to disrupt his address at a mass meeting at St. James Baptist Church. King indicated that the southern movement had reached a decisive point and he unveiled a program for “mass action” led by a “creative minority” willing to “take punishment in order to push into the promised land of freedom.”99 After delivering several speeches in Ohio and Illinois, King returned to Atlanta where he and other SCLC leaders met with their NAACP counterparts to discuss joining forces for a major voter registration campaign seeking to double the number of black voters before the November 1960 election.100 

On the morning of 31 January King delivered his farewell sermon, “Lessons from History,” and that evening Dexter members staged “A Salute to Dr. And Mrs. King,” a scripted review of King’s life, featuring appearances by his friends and relatives and modeled after the popular television program “This Is Your Life.”101 Following the skit, King expressed his appreciation for the support he had received from his wife, his family, and his congregation. Although he was leaving Montgomery, King insisted that he would remain active:

I intend to stay with it until victory is won and until every black boy and black girl can walk the streets of Montgomery and the United States with dignity and honor, knowing that he’s a child of the Almighty God and knowing that he has dignity and self respect.  It may not come in the next five years, I do not know. I hope it comes tomorrow morning by nine o’clock. But realism impels me to admit that there are still days of resistance ahead, difficult, dark days. I do not know what suffering we will have to go through. Some more bombings will occur, I’m sure. Some of us will have to go to jail some more. And I’m not so sure now that some of us may not have to pay the price of physical death, but I’m convinced that if physical death is the price that some must pay to free their children from a permanent life of psychological death, then nothing could be more Christian. And so let us go out with new and bold determination to make this old age--a new age.102

That following evening, King bid his followers a final public farewell at the MIA’s “Testimonial of Love and Loyalty,” held at Ralph Abernathy's First Baptist Church. In his address he urged the crowd to support newly elected president Abernathy, maintaining, as he passed him the MIA's gavel, “not only, I say, is he a great soul, but he has great ability.”103 On 7 February a “standing-room-only crowd of about 1,200" assembled at Ebenezer Baptist Church to hear King deliver his first sermon as co-pastor.104 King, Sr., who had for years tried to entice his son to move back to Atlanta, introduced him to the congregation, beaming proudly: “You know how happy I am to have my child with me.”105 Amid shouts of “Amen” and “preach, preach,” emanating from the congregation, King delivered “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life.” He declared that “our white brothers are only concerned with the length of life – their preferred economical position, their social status, their political power, and their so-called ‘way of life.’” A news report indicated that as King’s sermon reached its climax, with his arms stretched outward “and his voice full of emotion,” he asked, “Is my ultimate faith in America? Oh no. . . . America sometimes worries me. Is my ultimate faith in western civilization? Oh no. . . . My ultimate faith is in the eternal God!”106

* * *

When he announced his decision to leave Montgomery, King promised a new program for SCLC that would include “a full scale assault” on “discrimination and segregation in all forms,” but neither King nor the SCLC initiated the wave of student sit-ins that began on 1 February in Greensboro, North Carolina.107 Nonetheless, many of the youthful activists who spearheaded the protest campaign had been inspired by King and other SCLC leaders. Ezell Blair, one of the four students from North Carolina A&T College who conducted the first sit-in, had been deeply affected by a King speech at Greensboro’s Bennett College.108 In Durham, North Carolina, King’s SCLC colleague Douglas Moore advised sit-in demonstrators; and in Tallahassee, Florida, another colleague, C. K. Steele, worked closely with student protesters, including his two sons Henry and Charles.109 In Montgomery Ralph Abernathy advised student activists at Alabama State College. SCLC’s Nashville affiliate had encouraged student activism even before the Greensboro sit-in, sponsoring an ongoing nonviolence workshop under the leadership of Vanderbilt divinity student James Lawson, who King had earlier encouraged to move to the South to support the movement.110 Lawson’s workshop, which began meeting in 1958 in the basement of SCLC executive committee member Kelly Miller Smith’s church, attracted a cadre of student activists who would sustain the Nashville Student Movement after eighty-one students were arrested in that city’s initial series of sit-ins on 14 February. Workshop participants included Diane Nash and Marion Barry of Fisk University and John Lewis and James Bevel of the American Baptist Theological Seminary. Despite these ties between SCLC and participants in the sit-ins, however, a widening gulf between King and the new student movement would soon emerge. King consistently expressed support for the sit-ins, but he remained largely on the sidelines of the new movement until the fall of 1960. Instead of leading the campaign of civil disobedience, he became preoccupied with defending himself against perjury charges that threatened his reputation. The sit-in movement was a manifestation of King’s Gandhian ideals, but it also led to the creation of a new civil rights group, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), that would eventually challenge King and SCLC.

Two weeks after the sit-ins began, King traveled to Durham at Douglas Moore’s request to offer support to the sit-in campaign that had closed the city’s lunch counters. King held a press conference and then toured the downtown restaurants, where store employees and police scuffled briefly with press photographers covering the visit. He then discussed nonviolence in Durham with student groups from North and South Carolina as well as Virginia.111 That evening, accompanied by Moore and Abernathy, King addressed about one hundred students gathered at White Rock Baptist Church, comparing them to the youthful activists he had encountered in Africa and Asia. “What is new is that American students have come of age,” he remarked. “You now take your honored places in the world-wide struggle for freedom.” King also advised against fearing arrest, explaining that “if the officials threaten to arrest us for standing up for our rights, we must answer by saying that we are willing and prepared to fill up the jails of the South.”112

Returning to Atlanta on 17 February, King unexpectedly found himself facing a possible jail term when he was arrested on felony charges regarding alleged false statements in his 1956 and 1958 Alabama tax returns. Two Fulton County, Georgia, sheriff deputies entered his Ebenezer office and arrested him, citing the Alabama charges.113 An audit of King’s returns the previous month indicated that he had not reported the funds he had received on behalf of the MIA and SCLC, and thus he still owed the state more than seventeen hundred dollars.  King immediately paid the disputed amount, but Alabama officials, nonetheless, obtained a grand jury indictment against him.114  At the Fulton County courthouse, King posted $2,000 bail and was released. When asked by a reporter whether there was a connection between the arrest and his statement of support for student protesters in Durham, King responded that it was “a new attempt on the part of the State of Alabama to harass me for the role that I have played in the civil rights struggle.”115 Immediately placing the arrest in the context of civil disobedience, he indicated his willingness to go to jail if necessary, explaining that “maybe through our willingness to suffer and accept this type of sacrifice we will be able to arouse and awaken the dozing conscience of many citizens of our nation.”116 

Nearly two weeks later, King surrendered to Alabama authorities and was again released on bond. At a press conference at Dexter, King refrained from commenting on his own case and instead directed attention to the Alabama State College students who, a few days earlier, had launched sit-ins protesting segregated facilities at the Montgomery County courthouse. While offering SCLC’s “moral support and our financial support,” he asserted that the protests “have no direction from Martin Luther King.” The Montgomery protests soon attracted additional publicity when Alabama governor John Patterson ordered the president of Alabama State, H. Councill Trenholm, to expel student participants and fire faculty supporters. The latter threat had particular importance to King because of his close friendship with several targeted faculty members including Reddick and Dexter members Jo Ann Robinson and Mary Fair Burks.117 King and other SCLC leaders sent a telegram to Patterson protesting the reported “purge” and affirming the teachers’ “academic freedom and the right of citizenship.”118 In a letter to Burks, King was especially critical of Trenholm, also a member of his former Dexter congregation: “If he would only stand up to the Governor and the Board of Education and say that he cannot in all good conscience fire the eleven faculty members who have committed no crime or act of sedition, he would gain support over the nation that he never dreamed of.”119

Meanwhile, friends, supporters, and other civil rights leaders mobilized on King’s behalf in the tax case.120 In late February, a group of King’s supporters met in Harry Belafonte’s New York apartment to form the Committee to Defend Martin Luther King and the Struggle for Freedom in the South, with A. Philip Randolph as chairman.121 The committee immediately launched a fund raising effort with the announced goal of $200,000 to support King’s legal defense and SCLC’s voter registration drive. On 3 March they issued a press release that denounced the charges against King as a “gross misrepresentation of fact,” because King’s income had never “even approached” the $45,000 that Alabama officials claimed King received in 1958. “The officials of Alabama reached their fantastic figure by the shoddy device of adding to Dr. King’s personal income sums spent for transportation, hotels and other expenses in connection with his extensive travels on behalf of civil rights,” they explained.122

When Rustin and others drafted a fund raising appeal to appear in the New York Times, they sought to demonstrate that King’s arrest was not only politically motivated but part of an effort “to destroy the one man who, more than any other, symbolizes the new spirit now sweeping the South.” The decision to include the phrase “and the Struggle for Freedom in the South” as part of the committee’s name reflected a desire to broaden its mission, as did the committee’s statement that donations would support SCLC’s voter registration program. The appeal, however, led to unexpected problems when Patterson and other Alabama officials filed libel suits against the Times and the ministers, including King, charging that it contained defamatory statements regarding the student protests.123 The committee’s decision to place King’s arrest at the center of the appeal also alienated some of his allies, who recognized that the fund raising efforts had benefited from the widespread public sympathy for the students, many of whom were facing their own reprisals and legal difficulties. Soon after the ad appeared, Harris Wofford, who had served as an advisor during the bus boycott and had helped write sections of Stride Toward Freedom, voiced his concerns to King. “I do not think that your problem should be equated with that of the students and others who have been arrested in the demonstrations,” Wofford wrote. He argued that the legal issues involved and your “stature–as the leader and symbol of this movement” differed from those of the students. “It seems to me that this turns you into a kind of Scottsboro boy, not a man who is master of his fate.” While offering to assist in recruiting a legal defense team for King, Wofford advised King that his case would have “greater dignity” if he “did not permit solicitation of funds on your behalf, but conducted your own defense independently and courageously.”124

Wofford’s advice did not result in an immediate shift in the committee’s approach, but it suggested the increasing difficulties facing King as he advised and spoke on behalf of student protesters while refraining from joining their sit-ins. King accepted a proposal to sponsor a south-wide meeting of student protest leaders to be held Easter weekend at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina. King co-signed an invitation drafted by Baker offering “youth leaders” from protest centers an opportunity to “chart new goals and achieve a more unified sense of direction for training and action in Nonviolent Resistance.” Students were assured that, although adult leaders would be present to offer “counsel and guidance,” the gathering would be “youth centered.”125

On 15 April, the opening day of the conference, King read a statement to the press that applauded the students who “have taken the struggle for justice into their own strong hands.” He offered the more than one hundred high school and college students six topics for discussion, including establishing a permanent organization, instituting a “selective buying” campaign, going to jail rather than paying bail, broadening the struggle into every Southern community, and studying nonviolence in order to “arouse vocal and vigorous support and place pressures on the federal government that will compel its intervention,” and finally, deepening their commitment to the philosophy of nonviolence.126 King’s statement suggested the future direction of the student protest movement, but it also embraced tactics that went far beyond those that SCLC itself had utilized.

When King left the conference for an Easter morning appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he struggled to speak on behalf of the upsurge in student militancy. He also fended off growing criticisms of the students, including former president Harry Truman’s recent statement opposing sit-ins.127 But he spent most of the program on the defensive. When asked to explain how “breaking local laws” could be justified, King remarked, “whenever a man-made law is in conflict with what we consider the law of God, or the moral law of the universe, then we feel that we have a moral obligation to protest. And this is in our American tradition all the way from the Boston Tea Party on down.” King further maintained that the federal government “has the responsibility of protecting our citizens of this nation as they protest against. . .the injustices which they face.”128 Meanwhile, in Raleigh, the students in Raleigh established the Temporary Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.129

Despite King’s verbal support for student activism, he was restrained by other concerns during the spring of 1960, especially the perjury trial that threatened his preeminent role in the southern civil rights struggle. In a reflective article published in April, King acknowledged the cumulative emotional strain of five arrests, two bombings of his home, repeated death threats, and the near-fatal stabbing: “I must admit that at times I have felt that I could no longer bear such a heavy burden, and have been tempted to retreat to a more quiet and serene life.”130Although he had moved to Atlanta in order to invigorate SCLC and to enjoy the reduced pastoral obligations of a co-pastor, he expressed a measure of discouragement in a letter to one of his Boston University professors, writing that “in many instances I have felt terribly frustrated over my inability to retreat, concentrate, and reflect.” He had hoped to find “more time to mediate and think through the total struggle ahead,” but had been unable to set aside the necessary time. “I know that I cannot continue to go at this pace, and live with such a tension filled schedule. My failure to reflect will do harm not only to me as a person, but to the total movement.”131 Coretta King would later remember the tax indictment as a low point in her husband’s public career, writing that “despite all the bravery he had shown before, under personal abuse and character assaults. . . this attack on his personal honesty hurt him most.”132 The family’s peace of mind was not helped by the flaming cross burned in their yard late on the evening of 26 April. The cross was one of several burned in Atlanta that day.133

In May, the young activists met to discuss a more permanent organization, electing Fisk graduate student Marion Barry as the group’s first chairman. The students named King as an advisor, but other individuals also exerted influence during subsequent months. Baker offered encouragement, providing office space in a corner of SCLC headquarters in Atlanta and helping SNCC’s office administrator Jane Stembridge arrange meetings and prepare presentations to the upcoming Democratic and Republican Party platform committees.134 Lawson’s influence was considerable as well.  He was also chosen as an advisor, and his role in training the Nashville protesters caused some student activists to look to him more than King for guidance regarding Gandhian principles. Lawson had become a center of controversy in March when he was expelled from Vanderbilt’s Divinity School because of his support for the local protests.135 The expulsion, along with Lawson’s background as a conscientious objector to military service, a former missionary in India, and a representative of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, enhanced his credibility as an advocate of nonviolent resistance. It had been Lawson who prepared the succinct explication of Gandhian principles that became SNCC’s official statement of purpose, affirming “the philosophical or religious ideal of nonviolence as the foundation of our purpose, the presupposition of our faith, and the manner of our action. Nonviolence as it grows from Judaic-Christian traditions seeks a social order of justice permeated by love.”136

SNCC’s statement of purpose was consistent with King’s beliefs, but Lawson, despite being slightly older than King, was more in touch with the rebellious attitudes of the students. Lawson’s remarks at the Raleigh conference had also generated controversy when he expressed the frustration felt by many students regarding the NAACP’s reliance on litigation and lobbying. A New York Times article reported that Lawson called the NAACP’s Crisis magazine a publication for the “black bourgeois club” and also referred to the group as “a fund-raising agency, a legal agency” that had “by and large neglected the major resource that we have–a disciplined, free people who would be able to work unanimously to implement the ideals of justice and freedom.”137 After learning of Lawson’s remarks through press reports, NAACP head Roy Wilkins quickly contacted other NAACP officials and called a meeting to plan a response to discuss why the comments had “not thus far been repudiated by Rev. Martin Luther King.”138 In a letter to King, Wilkins expressed his outrage in a letter to King, asking “how was it that Lawson claimed his views were shared by other leaders in the SCLC?” Wilkins further complained that Lawson’s the attack was unwarranted and reminded King that “SCLC did not initiate the sit-downs. That we know. CORE did not initiate them. That we know. The NAACP did not initiate the wave that began February 1, but the NAACP staged the only successful sit-down at lunch counters in Oklahoma City and in Wichita, Kansas, in 1958. That we do know.” In order to avoid a split between the two organizations, Wilkins requested a private meeting with King to discuss the situation.139

Caught in the middle of the dispute, King forwarded Wilkins’s letter to Lawson asking for advice before his 7 May meeting with the NAACP leader in Atlanta.140 King’s sympathies were clearly with Lawson and the student activists, having contrasted the potency of “direct action” to the possibility of “a century of litigation” when he appeared on “Meet the Press.”141 His article published in the May issue of The Progressive referred approvingly to the fearless young people who had brought about a shift “from the slow court process to direct action in the form of bus protests, economic boycotts, mass marches.”142 King’s close associate Stanley Levison had privately identified Thurgood Marshall and other NAACP leaders as “gradualists in reality while they pretend to be uncompromising and firm” who were “using up the good will past victories in the courts brought them, and increasingly criticism and cynicism about their motives is being expressed.”143 Despite King’s own dissatisfaction with Wilkins and the NAACP’s gradualist approach, he recognized the necessity of maintaining good relations with the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization.

Lawson also sought to defuse the controversy, insisting in a 9 May letter to Wilkins that his remarks had been misinterpreted and pointing to his long association with the NAACP. Wilkins’ anger was not readily assuaged, however, especially after he learned that Bernard Lee, a student leader from Alabama State, had expressed even stronger criticisms of the NAACP and CORE at an event sponsored by the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at the University of Michigan. CORE founder and NAACP officer James Farmer shared with Wilkins’s dismay his dismay about Lee’s comments, suggesting that Bayard Rustin had exerted a negative influence over the student movement. Farmer expressed difficulty in understanding “how anyone as vulnerable as Rustin can make such a target of himself.”144 While Wilkins briskly dismissed Lawson’s attempted reconciliation--“Frankly, I do not know what you can do at this date to correct the impression that has been created”—NAACP stalwart Jackie Robinson wrote King to convey his dismay “that people who claim to represent the Southern Christian Leadership Conference are saying the N.A.A.C.P. has outlived its usefulness” and cautioned King to “not be a party to the old game of divide and conquer.”145

While King struggled to mend fences with NAACP leaders, his perjury trial opened on 25 May. Despite the concern of King’s lawyers that they had little time to prepare an adequate defense, due to the failure of prosecutors to disclose crucial evidence, they were able to expose weaknesses in the state’s case and attack the prosecution for failing to disclose crucial evidence. During the four-day trial, they defense called the all-white jury’s attention to the vagueness of the indictment and explained that the expense reimbursements that King received from SCLC were not taxable income.146 On 27 May, King took the stand and testified that a state auditor examined the return and revealed that he was “under pressure by his superiors” to find fault with it.  The following day the jury found him not guilty.147 King was elated, telling reporters that the verdict reaffirmed his “faith in the ultimate decency of man,” and indicated “that there are hundreds of thousands of people, white people of goodwill in the South.”148 Writing to L. Harold DeWolf, his former Boston University advisor, King expressed his “real surprise . . . . that an all white jury of Montgomery, Alabama would ever think of acquitting Martin Luther King.” He told DeWolf that his supporters had “felt that it would have been necessary to go to the United States Supreme Court in order to finally receive justice.”149

The successful perjury defense and a new wave of student protests goaded King to action in the spring of 1960. Wyatt Tee. Walker resigned his pastorship in Petersburg, Virginia, on 29 May to accept King’s offer to become SCLC’s executive director.150 King also met Democratic presidential hopeful John F. Kennedy for breakfast on 23 June at the Massachusetts senator’s Manhattan apartment.151 Kennedy, who was courting skeptical liberal voters put off by his tepid support of civil rights, had been encouraged by his advisors for several months to meet with King.152 During their hour and a half meeting, the two men discussed civil rights and the role of the executive branch. Reflecting on their meeting several years later, King recalled confronting Kennedy for siding with segregationists to weaken the Civil Rights Bill of 1957. Kennedy admitted his vote was a mistake and explained that “the sit-in movement had caused him to re-evaluate his thinking” and had made clear to him “the injustices and the indignities that Negroes were facing all over the South.” King left the meeting “impressed” by his “forthright and honest manner,” but he later recalled thinking that Kennedy had “intellectually committed himself to . . . integration” without having “emotional involvement at that moment.”153

News from Buffalo erased any guarded hope King may have gained from his Manhattan visit. Representative Adam Clayton Powell, the nation’s most prominent African American politician, told a gathering of black Baptists that King and A. Philip Randolph were “captives” of outside interests. He named Stanley Levison and Bayard Rustin as the radicals behind the scenes. Powell also accused Randolph and King of dividing the movement by barring Roy Wilkins from their planning sessions to organize upcoming convention protests designed to press the political parties to adopt strong civil rights planks.154 While not questioning King’s and Randolph’s “dedication” or “zeal,” Powell explained to the gathering of church leaders that “we must be on guard against our best leaders being captured by anyone.”155 King quickly sent a telegram to Powell: “How you could say the malicious things that the press reported last week concerning two of your best friends is still mystery to me.” He reminded Powell that he had defended him against the attacks of his “most severe critics,” but pledged not to seek revenge: “I will hold nothing in my heart against you and I will not go to the press to answer or condemn you.”156

King had dealt with previous conflicts within the movement and accusations of left-wing ties, but he was unprepared for Powell’s follow-up. Through intermediaries, Powell demanded the cancellation of the convention protests and threatened to leak to the press accusations of a sexual relationship between Rustin and King.”157 Randolph refused to cancel the protests, but with pressure mounting, Rustin tendered his resignation as King’s special assistant, director of the New York office of SCLC, and as executive director of the Committee to Defend Martin Luther King. He explained in a press release that he could not be responsible for causing problems when “the best elements of the Negro leadership are frustrated, diverted, and attacked as the result of my relationship to them.”158

* * *

Delayed en route from Rio de Janeiro where he had attended a meeting of the Baptist World Alliance, King requested that a representative read his prepared remarks to the Democratic Party’s platform committee, which had convened in Los Angeles on 7 July. Local minister and NAACP leader Maurice A. Dawkins delivered King’s statement, which questioned the sincerity of the party “when sitting in your midst are delegates sworn to deny citizens their Constitutional rights.” The statement further demanded that committee members “unseat and repudiate” segregationist delegates and other “such defilers of the law of the land.”159 A second representative, L. B. Thompson, presented platform proposals on behalf of King and Randolph including an endorsement of the sit-in protests, a presidential order banning discrimination in government jobs and housing, and a civil rights bill that would provide stronger enforcement of the Supreme Court’s school desegregation decision.160

On 10 July, King and student protest leaders Bernard Lee and Marion Barry led a march of several thousand demonstrators to the sports arena where the convention was to begin the following day.161 At a brief outdoor rally near the arena, King explained that the purpose of the gathering was to “urge the great Democratic party” to treat racial injustice “as one of the basic moral issues facing the world today.”162 In a six-block-long column, marchers then proceeded to an NAACP meeting at the Shrine Auditorium where civil rights leaders and presidential hopefuls addressed the audience.163 A disapproving chorus greeted Kennedy’s remarks as well as those of a representative of Senator Lyndon Johnson, prompting NAACP Washington Bureau Director Clarence Mitchell to seize the microphone and admonish the audience: “This is not the NAACP way. We do not boo our invited guests.”164 According to press accounts, Adam Clayton Powell received the most enthusiastic response from the crowd, despite his earlier opposition to the March on the Conventions Movement.165 In an interview with a Montgomery Advertiser reporter, King expressed his mixed views of Senator Kennedy, who by this time had become the clear frontrunner for his party’s nomination. King asserted that Alabama Governor John Patterson’s recent endorsement of Kennedy had added to his problems with black voters, and he suggested that his Roman Catholicism raised “legitimate questions” though “once he has answered them we should not cast him aside.” King also expressed the hope that religion “doesn’t become a major issue and ultimately a nasty issue in this campaign.”166

The March on the Conventions Movement reprised its efforts two weeks later in Chicago, where King, Wilkins, and Randolph and more than five thousand protesters encircled the International Amphitheatre and congested local automobile and pedestrian traffic. Republican delegates were forced to cross lines of mostly black picketers until a party representative promised them a floor vote on a proposed civil rights plank the demonstrators considered too weak.167 The demonstrations successfully prodded both parties to adopt their strongest civil rights planks in recent history, with the Democrats embracing several of the protesters’ demands. When they spoke with reporters at Chicago’s Conrad Hilton Hotel, King and Randolph applauded “the overall goals and principles in both party planks,” but they questioned whether either party could deliver on its promises.168

Following the demonstrations, King left for speaking engagements in Oklahoma that marked the start of a series of addresses delivered over the next three months in which he peppered his standard remarks with appeals intended to boost black voter turnout.169 Appearing on behalf of a Louisville voter registration drive that featured a downtown parade and rally, he encouraged his audience of nine thousand to make “wider use of the wonder drug of voting” and to build upon the courageous student “sit-ins, wade-ins, and kneel-ins” with the added dimension of “stand-ins at places of voter registration.” Though Eisenhower had signed the Civil Rights Act of 1960 just four months earlier, King warned that “if the Democratic Party emerges from this session of Congress without supporting new civil rights legislation merely to appease the Southern Dixiecrats, it may well be committing political suicide where the Negro vote is concerned.”170

In the midst of the presidential campaign, King participated in what was becoming an annual fall drama at the National Baptist Convention. During the previous four conventions, J. H. Jackson, the autocratic president of the largest organization of black Baptists, had successfully dodged parliamentary, legal, and even physical challenges to his leadership.171 King and other, mostly younger, ministers who doubted Jackson’s commitment to civil rights had been privately plotting his ouster for several years, but the 1960 meeting in Philadelphia marked the first time that King publicly opposed him. In a tumultuous session during which podium addresses were interrupted by marching bands and mysteriously malfunctioning microphones, reporters spotted King huddling with Jackson’s main rival, New York minister Gardner Taylor. The convention ended with the delegates electing two competing slates of officers, a situation that remained unresolved until the following year when King and the insurgents formed a splinter organization, the Progressive National Baptist Convention.172

The fall also witnessed renewed attempts by black parents to desegregate public schools, the return to campus of black student protesters, and heightened racist resistance to desegregation. On 27 August, a white mob in Jacksonville, Florida, armed with bats and ax handles, pummeled peaceful picketers affiliated with the NAACP’s Youth Council. The mob pursued the students into a black neighborhood where they clashed with black gang members. King appealed to the Jacksonville movement to remain nonviolent, but his offer to visit the city was rejected by a local NAACP official who explained that his group had not instigated the violence, “and since our people are alert and responsible, we believe we are fully able to meet what ever situation that may arise.”173 Around the same time, three of Fred Shuttlesworth’s children were arrested and beaten in jail after they refused to move to the back of a Greyhound bus near Gadsden, Alabama, on their way home from a youth workshop at the Highlander Folk School. King’s demands to the Attorney General for an “immediate investigation” were brushed off by Justice Department officials, who “assured” him that “appropriate action will be taken should it develop that violations of federal laws are involved.”174 A few weeks later, landowners in Fayette and Haywood counties in Tennessee began evicting black sharecroppers for attempting to register to vote. White bankers and merchants collaborated by refusing to trade with the evicted farmers, and hundreds of black families took refuge from the approaching winter in two tent cities that were kept supplied by civil rights supporters.175 SCLC’s own annual conference in Shreveport was marred by a shooting attack aimed at new field secretary Harry Blake.176

* * *

Returning to Atlanta on 14 October, King participated in a three-day SNCC conference intended to confirm the group’s status as a permanent organization and to map its future direction. Roughly two hundred black and white students attended the opening session of the conference, held at Atlanta University, to hear King speak on “The Philosophy of Nonviolence.”177 On the program to address the conference was a mixture of movement veterans, such as Ella Baker, Marion Wright of the Southern Regional Council, C. T. Vivian of the Nashville Christian Leadership Conference (NCLC), and student newcomers such as Marion Barry and Diane Nash.178 SNCC chairman Barry, buoyed by his participation in the convention protests, effused that “for the first time in history, Negro students . . . are heard by the political parties, and our demands were written into their platforms.” James Lawson struck a more sober note in his discussion of “Jail Versus Bail,” arguing that the movement had lost its “finest hour . . . when so many hundreds of us left the jails across the South. Instead of letting the adults scurry around getting bail, we should have insisted that they scurry about to end the system which had put us in jail. If history offers us such an opportunity again, let us be prepared to seize it.”179

History waited about five days. On 19 October King and fifty-one demonstrators were arrested for trespassing while attempting to obtain service at a restaurant in Rich’s department store. King and thirty-five other protesters refused bond and chose to remain in custody for “a year or even ten years” if necessary.180 At the new Fulton County jail, the students dined on liver and onions, while King, who was fasting, phoned Coretta before speaking to the press. He denied reporters’ suggestions that he had led the protests and emphasized the students’ initiative and leadership: “Last night they called and asked me to join in it. They wanted me to be in it, and I felt a moral obligation to be in it with them. I had been in on this thing from the beginning, and I felt that when the actual moment came when somebody got arrested I should be in on it.”181 In jail the following day, King and the other young inmates shuttled notes amongst themselves to maintain their spirits, while outside two thousand students formed picket lines at other segregated downtown stores.182 Police arrested a second round of demonstrators, including A. D. King, and telegrams from across the nation demanding the students’ release began flooding Atlanta mayor William B. Hartsfield’s office.183 As protests continued into the weekend, store owners closed many downtown lunch counters, and reporters noted the appearance on the streets of white counter-protesters and Ku Klux Klansmen. King resisted pleas from both supporters and civic leaders to accept bail, declaring to a Pittsburgh Courier reporter that he and the students “will positively stay in jail unless the lunch counters are desegregated.” He observed that his detention had caused him to miss several engagements, including a scheduled fund-raising address in Cleveland that would have netted SCLC several thousands of dollars. King asserted that he felt obliged to remain in jail “since this was what I had been preaching. I had to practice what I preached.”184

On Saturday, 22 October, Hartsfield moved to broker a truce by calling sixty black leaders, including King Sr. and student representatives, to City Hall. After a nearly three-hour meeting, Hartsfield announced that local black leaders had agreed to halt the demonstrations for thirty days in exchange for the release of the jailed students. Hartsfield also pledged to open negotiations with the store owners to consider the students’ demands.185 The following day, the released protesters began making their way from jail to a celebration at Paschal’s restaurant near the Morehouse campus. Coretta King waited anxiously among the well-wishers, but her husband never appeared.186 King remained in custody awaiting a hearing to determine if the arrest had violated the conditions of his probation stemming from a May traffic violation in neighboring DeKalb County.187

King supporters, spectators, and reporters packed his 25 October hearing at the DeKalb County courthouse. Atlanta NAACP president Samuel Williams jostled with police before being arrested, while Coretta sat alongside King Sr., A. D., and Christine on the “colored” side of the courtroom. King’s attorney Donald Hollowell argued that the probation was excessive for a minor traffic offense, and King testified that he had been unaware of his probation until being notified of it in the Fulton County Jail just three days earlier. DeKalb County judge J. Oscar Mitchell was unmoved by these arguments, and he was equally unpersuaded by pleas from six prominent character witnesses, including Benjamin Mays. He sentenced King to four months in Georgia State Prison at Reidsville.188 Roy Wilkins, who had flown in from New York to attend the hearing, decried the “shocking decision” and explained to reporters that it would have a “great impact upon all the colored people of this country emotionally.” Shortly after the sentencing, Wilkins attempted to visit King to deliver him a copy of George Orwell’s 1984, but guards denied him access after he identified himself as a visitor from New York. “I should have said I came over from Savannah,” he quipped.189 Coretta, with Daddy King at her side, was allowed to see her husband for what was an emotional visit. She later recalled that he appeared “weakened by his days in jail” and that he was “greatly depressed” by the “unexpected shock” of his sentence.190

At 4 A.M. the following morning, guards woke King, ordered him to dress and gather his belongings. Before his attorney or any of his family received notification, King was transferred from his cell to the state penitentiary in Reidsville. Uncertain of his destination and finding his guards unresponsive to his queries, King was deeply unnerved by the situation. “On the way they dealt with me just like I was a hardened criminal,” he later told an interviewer. “They had me chained all the way down there and—you know, the chains about my legs. They kind of tied my legs to . . . they had something in the floor where the chains were attached and I guess it’s a method they use when they transport real criminals so it would be no way for me to escape–and I was handcuffed.”191 Escorted to a single cell, apart from the rest of the prison population, King penned a letter to Coretta, who was five months pregnant: “Hello Darling, Today I find myself a long way from you and the children.” Acknowledging the inconvenience his arrest had caused his wife, he explained, “this excessive suffering that is now coming to our family will in some little way serve to make Atlanta a better city, Georgia a better state, and America a better country. Just how I do not yet know, but I have faith to believe it will.”192

King’s predicament spurred widespread sympathy and support. Receiving the brunt of an outpouring of political pressure from King’s supporters, an exasperated Hartsfield issued a declaration to the press: “We wish the world to know that the City of Atlanta had no part in the trial and sentencing of Dr. Martin Luther King for a minor traffic offense. The responsibility for this belongs to DeKalb County and the State of Georgia.”193 Judge Mitchell, Georgia governor Ernest Vandiver, and President Eisenhower also received critical telegrams and phone calls, many of which argued that the incident was damaging the nation’s global standing. The Jewish Labor Committee demanded that Vandiver issue a pardon immediately and warned that “the arrest and imprisonment of Dr. King will be played up in the Soviet and stooge press in order to buttress Khrushchev’s contentions” about discrimination and bigotry in the United States. Two educators from New York lamented that the administration’s efforts with unaligned African countries “will be canceled by wire photographs abroad of the Rev. King in handcuffs.”194

With the election little more than a week away, King supporters also exerted substantial pressure on the presidential candidates, transforming what had begun as a local protest against segregation into a national campaign issue with international implications. SCLC and nearly twenty other civil rights groups wired Nixon and Kennedy explaining that white intransigence and government inaction in the South had threatened “the prestige of our nation and our moral integrity as a people.” Among a list of ten demands, the organizations urged the candidates to “speak out against the imprisonment of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” before the election.195  Following the announcement of King’s removal to state prison, Harris Wofford and other intermediaries persuaded Senator Kennedy to telephone Coretta King to express his concern. On the day of King’s transfer to Reidsville, Kennedy spoke with her briefly from Chicago, where he had been campaigning. Later that day Coretta King told a reporter that the Democratic candidate’s call “certainly made me feel good that he called me personally and let me know how he felt.” She also said that the call led her to believe that Kennedy “would do what he could to see that Mr. King is let out of jail.”196 Soon after this call, Robert Kennedy initiated a series of contacts with Georgia governor Ernest Vandiver that eventually led to King’s release. In a 1964 interview Robert Kennedy described his conversation with Vandiver: “I talked to the governor. And he said that if I called the judge, that he thought that the judge would let Martin Luther King off.”197 Calling from a pay booth in Long Island, Robert Kennedy phoned Judge Mitchell, and on 27 October the judge freed King on a $2,000 appeal bond.198 King emerged from prison and flew immediately to Peachtree-DeKalb Airport, where he was greeted by his family, reporters, and cheering students. He told the gathered reporters that he owed “a great debt of gratitude to Senator Kennedy and his family,” and downplayed the candidate’s political motivations: “I’m sure that the senator did it because of his real concern and his humanitarian bent.” Though pressed by reporters, King declined to endorse Kennedy, explaining that it would be inappropriate for him to do so as the leader of the nonpartisan SCLC.199 King’s reluctance to take a formal stand was soon overshadowed, however, by Daddy King’s announcement that he had switched his allegiance to Kennedy, despite his earlier concern that the candidate was Catholic. “I’ve got all my votes, and I’ve got a suitcase, and I’m going to take them up there and dump them in his lap,” the elder King was quoted as saying.200

Over the next several days, Kennedy campaign workers distributed thousands of flyers at black churches all over the country contrasting “‘No Comment’ Nixon” with the “Candidate With a Heart.” The pamphlet featured quotes from King, Abernathy--“it is time for all of us to take off our Nixon buttons”--as well as from King’s wife and father.201 These efforts among black voters may have given Kennedy his slim margin of victory over Nixon on 8 November.202 The following day the chairman of the Republican National Committee explained that Nixon’s defeat came about because the party “lost the Negro vote by a larger percentage” than in previous elections. President Eisenhower grumbled that a “couple of phone calls” made the difference, and the Atlanta Journal dubbed Judge J. Oscar Mitchell “president-maker.”203

Soon after the election, King departed for Lagos, Nigeria, where he witnessed the inauguration of Nnamdi Azikiwe as Governor-General.204 Upon his return home he took part in a televised debate with segregationist newspaper editor James J. Kilpatrick.  The latter event proved a serious test of King’s ability to defend the principles of civil disobedience against an articulate opponent. King, shuffling through note cards during the broadcast, scarcely expanded his argument during the half-hour program. When Kilpatrick prodded King about legal issues and property rights, King sheepishly replied, “I go back to the argument, Mr. Kilpatrick, that an unjust law is no law at all.”205 According to one account, SNCC students who watched King’s appearance on “The Nation’s Future” were sorely disappointed in his feeble defense of the sit-in movement. Ella Baker recalled that students left the room mid-debate and “their criticisms of King . . . finally broke openly to the surface,” illustrating the disconnect between the burgeoning student movement and its elders.206

* * *

King returned from Africa to a different freedom movement than the one he had rejoined after traveling to India in the spring of 1959. No longer broke and unable to meet its payroll, SCLC found itself, by virtue of the tax case and the Atlanta arrests, in the unaccustomed position of receiving sufficient contributions to expand its staff and develop new programs. King’s endless run of speaking engagements and Levison’s and Rustin’s honing of the organization’s direct appeals had also finally paid off; plans were under way to complement these efforts with grants from major foundations and donations from a benefit performance featuring top entertainers Sammy Davis, Jr. and Frank Sinatra.207 The addition of Wyatt Tee Walker, as well as Atlanta staff members James Wood and Dorothy Cotton, regularized SCLC’s day-to-day operations, allowing it to respond to the demands of its affiliates and the needs of a growing civil rights movement.208 Wood and Cotton spent the last weeks of 1960 arranging to assume responsibility for the Highlander Folk School’s citizenship education training program, as Harry Blake pressed SCLC’s voting initiative in Louisiana, giving that campaign the full-time attention it required.209

Most importantly, the freedom movement had at last found a base. The murmur of discontent signaled by the Youth Marches had burst into a chorus of revolt in the spring of 1960. Black high school and college students from across the South had reclaimed the energy of Montgomery, extended it, and in the process captured the imagination of young people across the nation. Through the end of 1960 sit-ins were staged in more than one hundred southern cities and the students’ energy showed few signs of waning.210 If Mayor Hartsfield had hoped that the approaching holidays would bring a tapering off of protest spirit in Atlanta, he would be sorely disappointed. At the end of the thirty-day truce on 23 November, youth leaders granted him two additional days to reach an agreement with the store owners, after which they resumed their pickets and demonstrations into the new year.211 The students had added an important weapon to the movement’s arsenal, which had relied heavily on moral suasion to this point. Practitioners of direct action possessed the power to disrupt the normal operation of segregation. SCLC and SNCC were becoming increasingly sophisticated at dramatizing the contradictions of southern racism for the nation and the world through their arrests, boycotts, and convention protests. For the new Democratic administration, which had made the nation’s loss of global prestige its central campaign theme and which may have owed its victory to African American voters, the demands of the black South could no longer go unheeded. New tactics and a shifting political climate offered King reason for hope as he looked to the coming year. Writing to Roy Wilkins shortly after the election, King observed that “although the problems which we face in Atlanta and in the South at the present time are somewhat gigantic in extent and chaotic in detail, I am convinced that we stand on the threshold of the world’s bright tomorrows. I will continue to work with that faith.”212


1King, Annual Report, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Presented on 18 November 1958, in The Papers of Martin Luther King, vol. 4: Symbol of the Movement, January 1957-December 1958, ed. Clayborne Carson, Susan Carson, Adrienne Clay, Virginia Shadron, Kieran Taylor (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2000), pp. 538-539.

2For a discussion of the MIA’s and SCLC’s stalled programs, see Introduction, Papers 4:21-26 and 36-37.

3King was stabbed by Izola Ware Curry, a woman who was later determined to be mentally disturbed. For more on the stabbing and the Youth March, see Introduction and King, Address at Youth March for Integrated Schools in Washington, D.C., Delivered by Coretta Scott King, in Papers 4:34-35 and 514-515, respectively.

4MIA, “Program, Third Annual Institute on Nonviolence and Social Change,” 1 December 1958-7 December 1958; see also “Conference Condemns Alabama Officials,” New York Amsterdam News, 20 December 1958.

5For more on tension between King and other black leaders, see Introduction, Papers 4:17-18 and 26.

6From the early days of the Montgomery bus boycott, King had pointed to the Indian independence struggle as a model for his own efforts in the South (see King, “The Montgomery Story,” Address Delivered at the Forty-seventh Annual NAACP Convention, 27 June 1956, in The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., vol. 3: Birth of a New Age, December 1955-December 1956, ed. Clayborne Carson, Stewart Burns, Susan Carson, Peter Holloran, Dana L. H. Powell [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997], p. 307).

7See Homer Alexander Jack to King, 27 December 1956, in Papers 3:496, 498; Dorothy M. Steere to King, 5 January 1957, and King to Steere, 31 January 1957, in Papers 4:115-116.

8See King, “My Trip to the Land of Gandhi,” July 1959, pp. 231-238 in this volume, and “The Kings Leave Country,” Dexter Echo, 11 February 1959. James E. Bristol of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) later indicated that the Reynolds grant resulted from “Libby Holman Reynold’s friendship with the Kings” (Bristol to Corinne B. Johnson, 10 March 1959, p. 139 in this volume). Reddick’s Crusader Without Violence: A Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: Harper & Brothers) appeared later in 1959. King initially considered extending his trip by meeting with Christian leaders in the Soviet Union but changed his mind shortly before leaving the United States, citing “the state of his health and the urgency of the racial conflict in the South” (see “Dr. King Calls Off Russian Part of Trip,” Los Angeles Tribune, 6 February 1959). In a later letter to the general secretary of the American Baptist Convention, King mentioned that his decision against visiting the Soviet Union came after failing to gain “assurance that the Russian Baptists were participating in my coming. Without this assurance, the visit to Russia would have taken on too many political connotations” (King to Reuben E. Nelson, 23 March 1959, p. 158 in this volume).

9James E. Bristol to Corinne B. Johnson, 30 December 1958.

10See G. Ramachandran to King, 27 December 1958, in Papers 4:552-553, and Nehru to King, 14 January 1959, pp. 107-108 in this volume.

11Robeson cancelled his trip to India after becoming ill in Moscow; however, Bristol was still concerned about the repercussions of King’s visit to a nation that was resolutely nonaligned in the Cold War and had mulled the possibility of using United States Information Service personnel to help prepare press releases (Bristol to Johnson, 16 January 1959).

12King, Address at the Thirty-sixth Annual Dinner of the War Resisters League, 2 February 1959, p. 122 in this volume; see also “Martin Luther King Addresses WRL Dinner,” WRL News, March-April 1959.

13Reddick, “With King through India: A personal memoir,” 1968.

14Reddick, “With King through India.”

15Reddick, “With King through India.”

16Coretta Scott King, My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston), p. 173.

17King. Draft, “My trip to India,” April 1959. According to Coretta King, “Martin soon disobeyed these instructions and gave all the money he could to the forlorn humans who beseeched us” (see Coretta Scott King, My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr., p. 174).

18King, “My Trip to the Land of Gandhi,” July 1959, p. 235 in this volume.

19Bristol, “Notes from My Tour-Diary,” in With the Kings in India: A Souvenir of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Visit to India, February - March 1959 (New Delhi, Gandhi National Memorial Fund, 1959), p. 8.

20Reddick, Account of Press Conference in New Delhi on 10 February 1959, 1959, p. 126 in this volume; see also “Martin Luther King, Negro Leader, Pays Tribute to Gandhi,” American Reporter, 13 February 1959.

21“Dr King Will Make Study of Gandhism,” The Hindustan Times, 11 February 1959.

22Palm Sunday Sermon on Mohandas K. Gandhi, Delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, 22 March 1959, p. 151 in this volume.

23See “Notes for conversation between King and Nehru,” 10 February 1959, p. 130 in this volume.

24See Reddick, “With King through India,” 1968. For more on the differences between Gandhi’s belief in nonviolence and Nehru’s, see “The Negro Is Part of that Huge Community Who Seek New Freedom in Every Area of Life,” 1 February 1959, and King, Interview on “Front Page Challenge,” 28 April 1959, pp. 119 and 193-194 in this volume, respectively.

25Reddick, “With King through India”; see also “Notes for Conversation between King and Nehru,” 10 February 1959, p. 130 in this volume.

26King, Why We Can’t Wait (New York: Harper and Row, 1963), p. 135.

27“My Trip to the Land of Gandhi,” July 1959, p. 236 in this volume. For more on King’s admiration for Indian policies toward its untouchables, see note 4 to Address at the Religious Leaders Conference, 11 May 1959, and Palm Sunday Sermon on Mohandas K. Gandhi, 22 March 1959, pp. 197 and 145-157 in this volume, respectively.

28Reddick, “With King through India”; see also “Notes for Conversation between King and Nehru,” 10 February 1959, p. 130 in this volume.

29King, “My Trip to the Land of Gandhi,” July 1959, p. 236 in this volume.

30Reddick, “With King through India.”

31Bristol, “Notes from My Tour-Diary.” Reddick recalled of the wreath laying: “A picture of that went around the world and we were told that the ‘Today,’ morning TV show, had a five minutes clip about it” (“With King Through India,”).

32Bristol to Johnson, 20 March 1959.

33Coretta Scott King, My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr, p. 176.

34For more on King’s visit with Narayan, see King to Jayaprakash Narayan, 19 May 1959, pp. 209-211 in this volume.

35Bristol to Johnson, 20 March 1959.

36Vishwananda, “I Go Round with the Kings,” in With the Kings in India: A Souvenir of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Visit to India, February – March 1959 (New Delhi: Gandhi National Memorial Fund, 1959) pp. 5-6; see also Bristol to Johnson, 20 March 1959.

37Bristol to Johnson, 20 March 1959. Harriman, who had visited King in the hospital while he recuperated from his 1958 stabbing, was studying the Soviet Union’s impact on India. He had met with the Kings in Delhi soon after their arrival.  For coverage of the public meeting on 23 February, see “Emancipation of Negroes: ‘Non-violence the Only Way’,” The Hindu (Madras), 25 February 1959; see also F. Krishnan Nair to King, 5 October 1959.

38King, “The American Dream,” Sermon delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church, 4 July 1965.

39King, “A Walk through the Holy Land,” Sermon Delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, 29 March 1959, pp. 173-174 in this volume.

40See Bristol to Dorothy M. Bristol, 24 February and -25 February 1959.

41For a facsimile of King’s 29 February guest book entry, see p. 134 in this volume.

42Bristol to Johnson, 20 March 1959.

43King, “My Trip to the Land of Gandhi,” p. 234 in this volume.

44Vishwananda, “I Go Round with the Kings,” p. 7.

45Reddick, “With King through India.”

46Vinoba Bhave, “Dr. Martin Luther King with Vinoba,” Bhoodan 3 (18 March 1959): 369-370.

47Bristol to Johnson, 17 April 1959.

48Bristol to Johnson, 17 April 1959; see also Bristol to Johnson, 16 April 1959.

49King, “My Trip to the Land of Gandhi,” July 1959, p. 237 in this volume.  At his farewell press reception the following week, King called Vinoba “a great spiritual man, moving in a humble way to keep the spirit of Gandhiji’s philosophy alive” (“Mahatma’s Spirit Lives in India,” Hindustan Times, 9 March 1959).

50Bristol to Johnson, 10 March 1959, pp. 137-142 in this volume; see also Bristol to Johnson, 22 April 1959, and Johnson to Bristol, 26 March 1959. A subsequent AFSC report on the trip attributed some of the problems to the “last minute” changes and to the difficulty of scheduling because “communication had to be almost exclusively through a third person, Bayard Rustin” (AFSC, “Report on Martin Luther King’s Trip to India,” 4 May 1959).

51Bristol to Johnson, 27 March 1959.

52Farewell Statement for All India Radio, 9 March 1959, pp. 135-136 in this volume.

53King, “My Trip to the Land of Gandhi,” July 1959, p. 237 in this volume.

54King, “My Trip to the Land of Gandhi,” July 1959, pp. 233-234 in this volume; see also King, Draft, “My trip to India,” April 1959. Bristol also later remarked that Indians had not regarded King as an American, but “as the champion of the oppressed peoples of the world – in America, Asia and Africa.” (Bristol to Johnson, 11 March 1959).  Reddick similarly returned convinced that King was “better understood in India than in America” and that King’s experiences in India had caused him to “realize some of the changes that will be necessary if his movement in the South is to wipe out racial segregation without violence and bloodshed” (Press release, “Reddick returns from India; now understands King,”18 March-28 March 1959). In his 1968 memoir, Reddick concluded that the India trip was “a turning point” in King’s development. Previously King had “something of a reputation – especially with black folk and white liberals.” But “he had reason to wonder how he would be received in Gandhi’s homeland where the people really knew the meaning of non-violence.” Rather than an “impostor,” Reddick concluded that King “was accepted as the real thing” and had become “the leading, living exponent of the Mahatma’s theory and practice.”

55King, “My Trip to the Land of Gandhi,” July 1959, pp. 231-238 in this volume.

56King, “A Walk Through the Holy Land,” 29 March 1959, p. 165 in this volume. In a letter to Bristol, he reported talking “with many people concerning the Arab-Israeli problem,” which he described as “still one of the most difficult problems of the world” (King to Bristol, 30 March 1959, p. 176in this volume).

57King, “A Walk Through the Holy Land,” 29 March 1959, pp. 164-175 in this volume.

58Ralph Abernathy, Financial report, 2 April 1959.

59Jesse Hill, Jr. to King, 19 January 1959.

60See King to Hill, 28 January 1959, pp. 114-115 in this volume.

61Reddick, Notes on SCLC Administrative Committee Meetings on 2 April and 3 April 1959, p. 177 in this volume.

62“Reddick, Notes, p. 177 in this volume. Rustin had briefly been a member of the Young Communist Youth League in the 1930s and was convicted of engaging in a homosexual act in the 1950s.

63“Reddick, Notes, pp. 178-179 in this volume.

64King to Tilley, 3 April 1959, p. 180 in this volume. Writing to an associate a few months later, King was more frank regarding Tilley’s departure: “The actual fact is that Rev. Tilley was forced to resign by the Board because he was not producing. We were kind enough not to let this out to the public, and we said to Rev. Tilley that we would protect his name and reputation at every point” (King to Theodore E. Brown, 19 October 1959, p. 311 in this volume).

65Tilley to King, 13 April 1959, p. 183 in this volume.

66Randolph and Rustin, “Interim Report,” 30 December 1958; see also “Expect 100,000 Signatures Urging Integrated Schools,” Chicago Defender, 11 April 1959. SCLC became a sponsor of the Youth March but did not provide financial support until after the march, when it agreed to send $200 to help cover the organizers’ remaining debt (see King, Recommendations to the SCLC Executive Committee, 30 September 1959, pp. 295-297 in this volume). In contrast, the NAACP contributed $3,000 to the Youth March (see Wilkins to Randolph, 14 April 1959).

67Wilkins to Randolph, 26 May 1959, and Randolph to Wilkins, 5 June 1959.

68Rustin to Friend, 19 February 1959, and Youth March for Integrated Schools, Press release, 16 March 1959.

69The press release announced that the sponsors had “not invited Communists or communist organizations,” adding that members of the Ku Klux Klan and White Citizens’ Councils would also not be welcome at the March (Youth March for Integrated Schools, “Anti-American groups not invited to Youth March for Integrated Schools,” 17 April 1959).

70“Integration Rally Here Assured Ike Seeks End of Racial Bias,” Washington Post, 19 April 1959; see also “Ike Won’t See Belafonte With Youth Leaders,” Jet, 23 April 1959, p. 3; and “Eisenhower Cites Integration Goal,” New York Times, 19 April 1959.

71Sara Slack, “30,000 in March: Belafonte, Mboya Stampede Crowd,” New York Amsterdam News, 25 April 1959. Joining King at the front of the march were Randolph, Wilkins, Daisy Bates, Dorothy Height, Jean Noble, Joseph Overton, William Oliver, Gardner Taylor, and William Bowe.

72Youth March for Integrated Schools, “Program at the Sylvan Theater,” 18 April 1959, and Slack, “30,000 in March.”

73King, Address at the Youth March for Integrated Schools on 18 April 1959, p. 187 in this volume.

74See King, Interview on “Front Page Challenge,” 28 April 1959 and King, Address at the Religious Leaders Conference on 11 May 1959, pp. 191-194 and 197-202 in this volume, respectively.

75Shuttlesworth to King, 24 April 1959, p. 759 in this volume. King and SCLC demanded an investigation of Parker’s lynching in two telegrams sent on 25 April to attorney general William Rogers and Mississippi governor James P. Coleman. For more on the Parker case, see King to Coleman, 25 April 1959, pp. 190-191 in this volume. King also offered support to Florida A&M students who staged demonstrations in response to the rape (see King to Clifford Taylor, 5 May 1959, p. 196 in this volume). 

76Bayard Rustin, drawing upon his extensive links to non-Communist left movements, facilitated many of King’s contacts with African, Indian, and European activists.

77King, Remarks Delivered at African Freedom Dinner at Atlanta University, 13 May 1959, p. 204 in this volume.

78King to Mboya, 8 July 1959, p. 243 in this volume. King later secured, at Mboya’s urging and with support from SCLC and Dexter Church, a financial sponsorship for Nicolas W. Raballa, one of eighty-one Kenyan students receiving scholarships to American colleges and universities (Mboya to King, 31 July 1959; King to William X. Scheinman, 18 August 1959; and Harry Belafonte, Jackie Robinson and Sidney Poitier to King, 13 November 1959). Raballa maintained an active correspondence with King while at Tuskegee Institute, mainly concerning his poor financial circumstances. King also maintained ties to the American Committee on Africa, lending his name to fund-raising appeals and protest statements. After his trip to Ghana, he was increasingly viewed by Africans as an international symbol for justice (see for example, King, Introduction to Southwest Africa, the UN’s Stepchild, pp. 298-299 in this volume; King to Friend, 12 November 1959; and King to Homer Alexander Jack, 27 November 1959). Early in 1960 King became a signatory on a letter to the Eisenhower administration urging action against the government of South Africa after the Sharpeville massacre (Americans for Democratic Action, Press release, 17 April 1960; see also King to Claude Barnett, 24 March 1960, pp. 399-400 in this volume). For King’s growing stature among Africans, see King to Albert Lutuli, 8 December 1959, and King to Deolinda Rodrigues, 21 July and 21 December 1959, pp. 344-345, 250-251, and 345-346 in this volume, respectively.

79King to Dwight D. Eisenhower, 13 August 1959, and King, “The Negro and the American Dream,” Excerpt of Address at the Annual Freedom Mass Meeting of the North Carolina State Conference of Branches of the NAACP, 25 September 1960, p. 263 and 509 in this volume, respectively.

80“N.A.A.C.P. Leader Urges ‘Violence,’” New York Times, 7 May 1959.

81King, Address at the Fiftieth Annual Convention of the NAACP, 17 July 1959, p. 248 in this volume.

82Williams, “Can Negroes Afford to be Pacifists?” Liberation 4 (September 1959): 4-7.

83King, “The Social Organization of Nonviolence,” October 1959, pp. 299-304 in this volume. For more on King’s support of antinuclear efforts, see Norman Cousins and Clarence Pickett to King, 9 March 1958, in Papers 4:379-380, and “Humanity Has a Common Will and Right to Survive,” New York Times, 13 August 1959. Williams’ challenge to King’s nonviolent strategy would continue long after the exchange in Liberation. A few months after King’s article appeared,the Southern Patriot, published by the Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF), ran it alongside Williams’s piece as a “Great Debate:” with the headline “Is Violence Necessary to Combat Injustice?” For a facsimile, see p. 300 in this volume.

84King, Address at the Thirty-fourth Annual Convention of the National Bar Association, 20 August 1959, pp. 268-269 in this volume.

85King, “Address at Public Meeting of the Southern Christian Ministers Conference of Mississippi,” 23 September 1959, p. 282 in this volume.

86King, Recommendations to the SCLC Executive Committee, 30 September 1959, p. 295 in this volume. After an October Jet magazine article pointed to the lack of progress in SCLC’s “clergy-backed Dixie vote campaign,” King defended his organization, suggesting that the article may have been spurred by the disgruntled Tilley. He conceded that “no organization has done enough in the area of registration and voting in the South” (“Ticker Tape U. S. A.,” Jet, 12 October 1959; and King to Theodore E. Brown, 19 October 1959, p. 311 in this volume; see also King to Simeon Booker, 20 October 1959, pp. 313-315 in this volume.

87Wyatt Tee Walker and Fred Shuttlesworth, “Resolutions adopted at Fall Session,” 1 October 1959; see also SCLC, Recommendations adopted by the executive committee and delegates at Fall Session, 1 October 1959.

88Baker, “Report of the executive director,” 16 May 1959-29 September 1959.

89King, Recommendations to the SCLC Executive Committee, 30 September 1959, p. 296 in this volume; see also SCLC, Recommendations adopted by the executive committee and delegates at Fall Session, 1 October 1959.

90King, Recommendations to SCLC Committee on Future Program, 27 October 1959, pp. 315-318 in this volume.

91Levison, Tom Kahn, and Joe Filner to Rustin, 1 November 1959.

92Associated Negro Press, Press release, 18 November 1959, and SCLC, “Suggested draft for amplifying press release,” 11 November-30 November 1959.

93King, Draft, Resignation from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, 29 November 1959, pp. 328-329 in this volume.

94“Why Rev. M. L. King is Leaving Montgomery: Leader Says Time Is Ripe to Extend Work in Dixie,” Jet , 17 December 1959, pp. 14-15.

95SCLC Press Release, “Dr. King Leaves Montgomery for Atlanta,” 1 December 1959, pp. 330-331 in this volume.

96“Ga. Governor Warns Dr. King He’ll Be Watched,” New York Amsterdam News, 19 December 1959.

97“I have the highest esteem for the Reverend, but he could not have come at a worse time,” McGill confided in a 15 December letter to editor Harry S. Ashmore The Montgomery Advertiser reacted to King’s impending departure with a critical editorial that conceded that King was “a courageous man and was obviously prepared to die. His Gandhi peace talk was spurious, but it was peace talk nevertheless” (“King Returns to Atlanta,” Montgomery Advertiser, 6 December 1959).

98Dick Hines, “Farewell Talk: King Pledges to File Suit on School Mixing,” Montgomery Advertiser, 4 December 1959, and King, Address at the Fourth Annual Institute on Nonviolence and Social Change at Bethel Baptist Church, 3 December 1959, p. 342 in this volume.

99Emory O. Jackson, “King Says South Out to Kill 1954 Supreme Court Decision,” Atlanta Daily World, 11 December 1959.

100Charles Moore, “Drive Launch Seeks Million More Negro Voters,” Atlanta Constitution, 29 December 1959.

101See “Dexter Honors Dr. & Mrs. King!!,” 3 February 1960 and King, Address Delivered during “A Salute to Dr. and Mrs. Martin Luther King” at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, 31 January 1960, pp. 364-365 and  351-357 in this volume, respectively.

102King, “A Salute to Dr. and Mrs. Martin Luther King,” 31 January 1960, pp. 354-355 in this volume; see also John Coombes, “Additional Boycotts Asked in King’s Farewell Address,” Montgomery Advertiser, 2 February 1960.

103King, Address Delivered at the Montgomery Improvement Association’s “Testimonial of Love and Loyalty,” 1 February 1960, p. 361 in this volume.

104“Dr. King Asks Love Returned for Hate,” Atlanta Constitution, 8 February 1960; see also Martin Luther King, Daddy King: An Autobiography, with Clayton Riley (New York: William Morrow, 1980),p. 168.

105“Dr. King Asks Love Returned for Hate,” 8 February 1960.

106Paul Delaney, “‘Follow Way of Love,’ Dr. King Asks People,” Atlanta Daily World, 9 February 1960.

107SCLC Press Release, “Dr. King Leaves Montgomery For Atlanta,” 1 December 1959, p. 331 in this volume.

108Jibreel Khazan [Ezell Blair, Jr.], Interview by William H. Chafe, 27 November 1974; see also Introduction in Papers 4:38.

109See King to Steele, 19 March 1960, pp. 391-392 in this volume. For Moore’s protests in Durham, see Moore to King, 3 October 1956, in Papers 3:393-397.

110See Lawson to King, 3 November 1958, in Papers 4:522-524.

111“Negro Told Not to Fear Jail Terms,” Greensboro Daily News, 17 February 1960.

112King, “A Creative Protest,” 16 February 1960, pp. 367-370 in this volume; see also “Negro Told Not to Fear Jail Terms,” Greensboro Daily News, 17 February 1960.  In an interview with Newsweek conducted shortly after King’s Durham speech, King suggested that the sit-ins might initiate “a full-scale assault on segregation” and were responses to the South’s delaying actions following the Supreme Court’s 1955 mandate calling for school desegregation with “deliberate speed” (“Integration: ‘Full-Scale Assault,’” Newsweek, 29 February 1960).

113See King, Interview on Arrest following Indictment by Grand Jury of Montgomery County, 17 February 1960, pp. 370-372 in this volume.

114After King sent the Department of Revenue a check for the disputed amount on 16 February 1960, one day before his indictment for falsifying his returns, E. A. Erwin, of the Department of Revenue informed him that a computation error indicated that he owed slightly less than had earlier been thought (King and Coretta Scott King to Erwin, 5 March 1960).

115King, Interview on Arrest following Indictment by Grand Jury of Montgomery Country, 17 February 1960, p. 371 in this volume. In a printed statement, King indicated that he was unlikely to get a “fair hearing” in Alabama. He further suggested that “a group of distinguished citizens of highest integrity go over all of my books and make a report of their findings” (King, Statement on the indictment by Grand Jury of Montgomery County, 17 February 1960).

116Dick Hines, “King Free on Bond; Denies Starting Sit-In,” Montgomery Advertiser, 1 March 1960. For more on the Montgomery protests, see King to Eisenhower, 9 March 1960, and King to Rebecca Dixon, 10 March 1960, pp. 385-387 and 388 in this volume, respectively.

117“ASC Negroes Roar Approval of Campus Walkout Threat,” Montgomery Advertiser, 1 March 1960, see also King to Burks, 5 April 1960, pp. 406-408 in this volume. Burks and Robinson were both past presidents of the Women’s Political Council, the group that had written and distributed the leaflet on 2 December 1955 that began the Montgomery bus boycott.

118King to John Malcolm Patterson, 14 April 1960, pp. 425-426 in this volume.

119King to Burks, 5 April 1960, p. 407 in this volume; see also King to Patterson, 9 August 1960, pp. 495-496 in this volume.

120See letters from John Wesley Dobbs to King, 18 February 1960; A. Philip Randolph to King, 19 February 1960; E. D. Nixon to King, 20 February 1960, pp. 372-373 in this volume; and Kelly Miller Smith to King, 22 February 1960. The Dexter Avenue Baptist Church newsletter reported: “In a special joint meeting of the official staff of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and the Montgomery Improvement Association held at Dexter . . . the officials of each organization gave a pledge of implicit confidence to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr in his recent embarrassment by the Department of Revenue of the State of Alabama” (“Dexter Official Staff Gives Vote of Confidence to Dr. Martin Luther King,” Dexter Echo, 2 March 1960, p. 5; see also Paul Delaney, “Atlanta Ministers Deplore Alabama Indictment Issued Against Dr. M. L. King, Jr.,” Atlanta Daily World, 23 February 1960).

121Other members included Rustin, Levison, Belafonte, former baseball star Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn minister Gardner Taylor, Harry Emerson Fosdick (the former president of Union Theological Seminary and minister of Riverside Church in New York), Ruth Harris Bunche (the wife of United Nations under-secretary Ralph Bunche), and Jerome Nathanson of the American Ethical Union (Committee to Defend Martin Luther King and the Struggle for Freedom in the South, Press release, Committee to undertake fundraising campaign, 3 March 1960).

122Committee to Defend Martin Luther King and the Struggle for Freedom in the South, Press release, “Statement on the indictment of Martin Luther King, Jr.,” 3 March 1960.

123For a facsimile of the committee’s appeal, “Heed Their Rising Voices” (published 29 March 1960 in the New York Times) see p. 382 in this volume; see also Patterson to King, 9 May 1960, pp. 456-458 in this volume.

124Wofford to King, 1 April 1960, p. 403 in this volume. NAACP board member Jackie Robinson and CORE executive secretary James Robinson also voiced concerns about the appeal (see Jackie Robinson to King, 5 May 1960, and James R. Robinson to King, 13 May 1960, pp. 454-455 and 458-459 in this volume, respectively).

125King and Baker, Announcement, “Youth leadership meeting, Shaw University, Raleigh, N.C., 4/15/1960-4/17/1960,” March 1960. A month before the conference in Raleigh, Baker met with two adult advisors to the sit-in protesters, Glenn Smiley of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and Douglas Moore, an SCLC board member, who agreed that the conference “should be youth centered” with adults speaking “only when asked to do so” (Baker, Memorandum to King and Abernathy, 23 March 1960, p. 397 in this volume).

126King, Statement to the Press at the Beginning of the Youth Leadership Conference,”15 April 1960, p. 427 in this volume; see also Charles Craven, “Be Jailed If Necessary King Tells Negroes: Group Meets Here to Plan Future Move,” Raleigh News and Observer, 16 April 1960, Claude Sitton, “Dr. King Favors Buyers’ Boycott,” New York Times, 16 April 1960; and SNCC, “Report of the Raleigh conference,” 23 June 1960.

127King, Interview on “Meet the Press,” 17 April 1960, pp. 428-435 in this volume. Truman was quoted as saying, “If anyone came into my store and tried to stop business, I’d throw him out. The Negro should behave himself and show he’s a good citizen. Common sense and goodwill can solve this whole thing” (“Truman Reiterates Views on Sitdowns,” New York Times, 25 March 1960; see also King to Truman, 19 April 1960, pp. 427-439 in this volume).

128King, Interview on “Meet the Press,” 17 April 1960, pp. 428-435 in this volume.

129“Negro Students Form Group to Guide Policies,” Washington Post, 18 April 1960.

130King, “Suffering and Faith,” 27 April 1960, p. 444 in this volume.

131King to Allan Knight Chalmers, 18 April 1960, p. 436 in this volume.

132My Life With Martin Luther King, Jr., p. 185.

133“This, Son, Is a Klan Cross!” Norfolk Journal and Guide, 7 May 1960.

134See articles in initial issue of The Student Voice, June 1960 (The Student Voice, 1960-1965, Periodical of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, compiled by the staff of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers Project [Westport, Conn.: Meckler, 1990]).

135James W. Donaldson, a student with ties to Nashville, wrote King on 3 March to inform him of the school’s efforts to oust Lawson. Following his dismissal, Lawson was allowed to reapply several months later after many Vanderbilt faculty members threatened to resign in protest (The Lawson-Vanderbilt Affair: Letters to Dean Nelson, August 1960).

136James Lawson, “Statement of purpose,” 17 April 1960; see also SNCC, “Report,” 13 May - 14 May 1960. Following the 13-14 May SNCC meeting, this draft statement was circulated among the group’s state and local affiliates (The Student Voice, June 1960, p. 2).

137Claude Sitton, “Negro Criticizes N.A.A.C.P. Tactics,” New York Times, 17 April 1960.

138Wilkins to Gloster Current et. al, 18 April 1960.

139Wilkins to King, 27 April 1960, pp. 444-446 in this volume.

140King enclosed Wilkins’s letter with a note to Lawson reading: “I would appreciate your reading it so that I can talk with you concerning the contents before I talk with Roy” (King to Lawson, 2 May 1960).

141King, Interview on “Meet the Press,” 17 April 1960, p. 432 in this volume.

142King, “The Burning Truth of the South,” May 1960, p. 449 in this volume.

143Levison to King, March 1960, p. 383 in this volume.

144In a memo to Wilkins, Farmer and NAACP labor secretary Herbert Hill claimed that Lee derided the organization for including whites in their organizations. Farmer further explained that Lee subsequently apologized for his comment, stating that “he did not want anyone going from the conference telling people that he was the one who was trying to split the North from the South and keep the movement for fostering only black” (Hill and Farmer, Memo to Wilkins, 3 May 1960).

145Wilkins to Lawson, 13 May 1960, and Robinson to King, 5 May 1960, p. 454 in this volume. Morehouse College president Benjamin Mays, who had deep ties to the King family, also entered the fray, complaining to Wilkins about the anti-King comments he had heard from NAACP state officials: “it is not enough for you and Martin Luther King, Jr. to work together harmoniously but the persons under your leaderships . . . must do the same” (Mays to Wilkins, 18 May 1960).

146King, Defendant, “Demurrer to indictment,” State of Alabama v. Martin Luther King, Jr., 20 May 1960.

147Arthur Osgoode, “Income Tax Case: Final Arguments Set Today in King Trial,” Montgomery Advertiser, 28 May 1960.

148King, Statement on verdict by jury of Montgomery County, 28 May 1960, and King, Statement on Perjury Acquittal, 28 May 1960, p. 462 in this volume.

149King to DeWolf, 16 June 1960, p. 473 in this volume.

150“Negro Leader Urges Continued Struggle,” Richmond News Leader, 2 June 1960. For King’s job offer, see King to Walker, 5 March 1960, pp. 384-385 in this volume.

151Anthony Lewis, “Kennedy Salutes Negroes’ Sit-Ins,” New York Times, 25 June 1960.

152See King to Marjorie McKenzie Lawson, 4 September 1959 and King to Bowles, 24 June 1960, pp. 276-277 and 478-480 in this volume, respectively. King had also met with Kennedy advisor Harris Wofford just two weeks before the meeting with Kennedy.  

153King, Interview by Berl I. Bernhard, 9 March 1964, and King to Bowles, 24 June 1960, p. 480 in this volume; see also Anthony Lewis, “Kennedy Salutes Negroes’ Sit-Ins,” New York Times, 25 June 1960.

154See “Powell Insists Randolph, King Are ‘Captives,’” Pittsburgh Courier, 25 June 1960. While there were tensions among the leaders of the March on the Conventions protests, Wilkins had been involved in the planning from the start (Levison, Kahn, and Filner to Rustin, 1 November 1959). King and Randolph officially announced the protests at a June press conference, but they had spoken about them publicly since January (see King, Outline, Remarks for “A Salute to A. Philip Randolph,” 24 January 1960; and King and Randolph, Statement Announcing March on the Conventions Movement for Freedom Now, 9 June 1960, pp. 350 and 467-469 in this volume, respectively).

155“Powell Insists Randolph, King Are ‘Captives,’” Pittsburgh Courier, 25 June 1960.

156King to Powell, 24 June 1960, p. 481 in this volume. For King’s public defense of Powell during the Congressman’s 1958 tax evasion trial, see King to Powell, 10 June 1958, in Papers 4:420-421.

157By Rustin’s later account, King found the threat debilitating: “Martin was so terrified by this that he, in fact, tried to get Randolph to call off the demonstrations” (Bayard Rustin, The Reminiscences of Bayard Rustin [New York: Oral History Research Office, Columbia University], 1988). Nat Hentoff, writing in the Village Voice, criticized Powell for his divisiveness but also chided King for failing to support Rustin just as he had failed  Lawson a month earlier: “King by temperament is not a fighter. He is appalled at prospects of ‘division’ within ‘the movement.’ Accordingly, he sometimes will not only not fight for himself, but he will also not support his subordinates” (“Adam Clayton Powell: What Price Principle?,” Village Voice, 14 July 1960).

158SCLC, Press release, 27 June 1960; see also Rustin, Interview by T. H. Baker, 30 June 1969.

159Introductory remarks to the 1960 Democratic Party platform committee, read by Maurice A. Dawkins, 7 July 1960.

160See King and Randolph, Joint Platform Proposals to the 1960 Democratic Party Platform Committee, Read by L. B. Thompson, 7 July 1960, pp. 482-485 in this volume.

161“Cheers and Boos Greet Kennedy at Rights Rally,” Los Angeles Times, 11 July 1960.

162Louis Lautier, “Rev. Powell Steals Show at NAACP Pre-Convention Rally,” Baltimore Afro-American, 23 July 1960.

163For King’s remarks, see Address at NAACP Mass Rally for Civil Rights, 10 July 1960, pp. 485-487 in this volume. 

164Lautier, “Rev. Powell Steals Show,” 23 July 1960.

165Kenneth C. Field, “7,000 Boo, Cheer at ‘Rights’ Rally,” Los Angeles Sentinel, 14 July 1960.

166Bob Ingram, “Kennedy Out of Favor with Negro, King Says,” Montgomery Advertiser, 14 July 1960. 

167Thomas Powers, “5,000 Demonstrate for Civil Rights Plank,” Chicago Tribune, 26 July 1960.

168Johnnie Moore, “King, Randolph Still Skeptical,” Chicago Defender, 28 July 1960.

169In Tulsa, Oklahoma, on 28 July, King spoke before a crowd of 1,500 at a rally held at First Baptist Church (“Freedom Rally: Attended by 1,500 King Urges Sit-Ins,” Oklahoma Eagle, 4 August 1960).

170“King Urges Negro Voter Registration Raps Both Parties,” Louisville Times, 24 August 1960; see also King, Excerpts, Address at Jefferson County armory, 23 August 1960. For more on the Civil Rights Act of 1960, see Jacob K. Javits to King, 21 April 1960, pp. 439-440 in this volume.

171For more on previous Baptist conventions, see Introduction, in Papers 4:17-18. Following the 1959 convention in San Francisco, King wrote to New York minister Thomas Kilgore, urging Jackson’s ouster: “We can no longer passively accept the moral degeneracy which has infiltrated the top echelon of our convention. Let us go on to victory in 1960" (King to Kilgore, 6 October 1959, p. 305 in this volume).  

172“Baptists in Convention, Name Two,” Baltimore Afro-American, 17 September 1960.

173Goodson to King, 2 September 1960, see also King to Johnnie H. Goodson, 29 August 1960, pp. 497-498 in this volume. For press coverage of the Jacksonville riot, see “Violence Flares in Jacksonville,” New York Times, 28 August 1960, and “Violence in Jacksonville,” Southern Patriot, October 1960.

174King to William P. Rogers, 18 August 1960, p. 497 in this volume, and Harold R. Tyler to King, 2 September 1960. 

175“Negroes’ Tent City Decried As Stunt,” New York Times, 29 December 1960; Anthony Lewis, “U.S. Suit Charges An Economic Bar to Negro Voting,” New York Times, 14 September 1960; see also King to James F. Estes, December 1960, p. 567 in this volume and Baker to Estes, 12 February 1960.

176James Wood, “3500 Attend SCLC Annual Conference,” Southern Patriot, November 1960. For more information on the meeting, see King, “Message from the President,” 11 October -13 October 1960, pp. 517-518 in this volume; and Tyler to King, 17 October 1960.

177See King, Outline, The Philosophy of Nonviolence, 14 October 1960, pp. 520-521 in this volume.

178SNCC, Agenda, “Conference: nonviolence and the achievement of desegregation,” 14 October-16 October 1960.

179Anne Braden, “Student Movement: New Phase,” Southern Patriot, October 1960.

180King, Draft, Statement to Judge James E. Webb after Arrest at Rich’s Department Store, 19 October 1960, p. 524 in this volume; see also Bruce Galphin and Keeler McCartney, “King, 51 Others Arrested Here in New Sit-In Push,” Atlanta Constitution, 20 October 1960, and Wyatt Tee Walker to Hartsfield, 20 October 1960. Several student leaders would later recall that the effort to coax King into the protest required something of a campaign in itself; Morehouse student Lonnie King explained to King that he “was going to have to go to jail if he intended to maintain his position as one of the leaders in the civil rights struggle” (see Lonnie King, Interview by John H. Britton, 29 August 1967).

181Raleigh Bryans, “Negroes Count on Atlanta As Moderate, Dr. King Says,” Atlanta Journal, 20 October 1960.

182See King, To Female Inmates, 19 October-23 October 1960, pp. 527-528 in this volume; see also Mattie Cox et al. to Brothers, 19 October-23 October 1960, and Carolyn Long to Omega Brothers, 22 October 1960.

183John Britton, “Mayor Suggests ‘Truce’ In Demonstrations Here,” Atlanta Daily World, 22 October 1960; see also William H. Gray to William Berry Hartsfield, 20 October 1960; and “Gate City ‘Shook Up’: ‘Sit-Ins’ Step Up Pressure In Atlanta,” Pittsburgh Courier, 29 October 1960.

184Trezzvant W. Anderson, “‘I Had to Practice What I Preached,’” Pittsburgh Courier, 29 October 1960.

185“Negroes Agree to Halt Sit-Ins for 30 Days Here,” Atlanta Journal, 23 October 1960, and “Rev. King Freed in Fulton Sit-Ins But Must Face DeKalb Traffic Case,” Atlanta Constitution, 25 October 1960; see also Hartsfield, Interview on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s arrest and the student sit-ins, 24 October 1960.

186Coretta Scott King, My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr., p. 192. 

187King had been stopped by police on 4 May while driving white author Lillian Smith to Emory University Hospital. On 23 September he pled guilty to driving with an invalid license and was fined $25 and a twelve month  probation (John Britton, “Sentence Termed Excessive, Harsh, Cruel: Motion to Revoke Conviction of King Rejected Following Early Morning Transfer to Reidsville,” Atlanta Daily World, 27 October 1960l see also Jack Strong, “King Gets 4 Months In DeKalb Court,” Atlanta Constitution, 26 October 1960.

188Jack Strong, “King Gets 4 Months In DeKalb Court,” Atlanta Constitution, 26 October 1960, see also Coretta Scott King, My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr., p. 193.

189Roy Wilkins, Press conference, 25 October 1960.

190Coretta Scott King, My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr., p. 194. 

191Quoted in Interview by Berl I. Bernhard, 9 March 1964.

192King to Coretta Scott King, 26 October 1960, pp. 531-532 in this volume.

193“Trial Not City’s, Mayor Emphasizes,” Atlanta Journal, 26 October 1960.

194See “King’s Imprisonment Stirs U. S.-Wide Wave of Criticism,” Atlanta Constitution, 27 October 1960; see also Joachim Prinz to S. Ernest Vandiver, 26 October 1960.

195SCLC and Southern Conference Educational Fund, Inc. to Kennedy and Nixon, 27 October 1960.

196When asked if she had heard from Vice President Nixon, Coretta King replied that “he’s been very quiet” (see “Kennedy Phoned to Express Concern, King’s Wife Says,” Atlanta Constitution, 27 October 1960). Within the Nixon campaign, advisors drafted telegrams and support statements on King’s behalf, including the following by the deputy attorney general Lawrence E. Walsh: “It seems to me fundamentally unjust that a man who has peacefully attempted to establish his right to equal treatment free from racial discrimination be imprisoned on an old, unrelated and relatively insignificant charge, driving without a license. . . . Accordingly, I have asked the Attorney General to take all proper steps to join with Dr. King in an appropriate application to vacate this sentence” (Lawrence E. Walsh, Suggested statement on arrest of Martin Luther King, Jr., 31 October 1960). These proposals were pocketed by campaign organizers “to think about it,” as one black staff member would later recall (see E. Frederic Morrow, Journal entry, 10 November 1960). E. Frederic Morrow would later tell an interviewer that his efforts were frustrated by campaign staff members and not the candidate: “It was his advisors who did me in rather than Nixon” (Morrow, Interview by Thomas Soapes, 23 February 1977). Speaking to an interviewer several years later, King blasted Nixon as a “moral coward” for failing to act on his behalf: “He had been supposedly close to me, and he would call me frequently about things . . . getting . . . seeking my advice. And yet, when this moment came, it was like he had never heard of me” (King, Interview by Berl I. Bernhard, 9 March 1964).

197Kennedy further noted that he kept the conversation with Vandiver secret because he “thought it would destroy the governor!” (Robert F. Kennedy and Burke Marshall, Interview by Anthony Lewis, 4 December 1964). In a 1967 interview, Vandiver reiterated Kennedy’s concern that it would have been “political suicide, with the temper of the times as it was, for it to have been publicized. . . . However, with my interest in seeing that Kennedy was elected president, I was willing to take that chance” (S. Ernest Vandiver, Interview by John F. Stewart, 22 May 1967). Various leaders began taking credit for Kennedy’s election in November 1960, including Atlanta mayor William Hartsfield, who recalled receiving numerous telegrams and letters protesting King’s arrest; realizing the political significance the arrest could have on the presidential election, he recalled exclaiming: “Great goodness, this presidential race is close. None of us knows which way New York’s going; none of us knows which way Illinois is going and the Negro vote counts heavily” (William B. Hartsfield, Interview by Charles T. Morrissey, 6 January 1966).

198Robert Kennedy and Burke Marshall, Interview with Anthony Lewis, 4 December 1964. To the press Robert Kennedy attempted to downplay the phone call’s impact, explaining that he had been pressed to act by the requests that had “swamped” Kennedy headquarters. Governor Vandiver, who was intimately involved in the arrangements, blasted the Kennedys for their alleged meddling on behalf of “the foremost racial agitator in the country” (Bruce Galphin, “His Call Misinterpreted, Robert Kennedy Says,” Atlanta Constitution, 1 November 1960).

199King, Interview on John F. Kennedy’s role in release from prison, 27 October 1960; see also King, Interview after Release from Georgia State Prison at Reidsville, 27 October 1960 and King, Statement on Presidential Endorsement, 1 November 1960, pp. 535-536 and 537-540 in this volume, respectively.

200Margaret Shannon and Douglas Kiker, “Out on Bond, King to Name Choice,” Atlanta Journal, 28 October 1960.

201For a facsimile of the Freedom Crusade Committee pamphlet, “The Case of Martin Luther King,” see pp. 538-539 in this volume.

202The following month, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, King addressed an audience at Memorial Auditorium, where he declared that the “Negro played a decisive role in electing the president” and remained optimistic about the “power of the ballot and what the ballot can do.” King instructed the audience that “we must remind Mr. Kennedy that we helped him to get in the White House” and that “we are expecting him to use the whole weight of his office to remove the ugly weight of segregation from the shoulders of our nation” (“The Negro and the American Dream,” Address delivered at the Memorial Auditorium, 30 December 1960).

203Harold Davis, “Lodge Lost Negro Votes: Did Judge in King Case Supply Kennedy His Edge?” Atlanta Journal, 10 November 1960, and Anthony Lewis, “Protest Over Dr. King’s Arrest Was Drafted for President’s Use,” New York Times, 15 December 1960; see also Gloster B. Current, “Why Nixon Lost the Negro Vote,” The Crisis, (January 1961): 5-14.

204See Nnamdi Azikiwe to King, 26 October 1960, pp. 533-534 in this volume.

205Debate with James J. Kilpatrick on “The Nation’s Future,” 26 November 1960, p. 563 in this volume.

206James Howard Laue, “Direct Action and Desegregation: Toward a Theory of the Rationalization of Protest” (Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 1965), p. 169.

207See King to Davis, 20 December 1960, pp. 582-583 in this volume.

208Walker, “Report of the director to the executive board,” 11 October 1960.

209Wood, “Report, Leadership training program,” 23 November 1960.

210Martin Oppenheimer, “The Sit-In Movement of 1960” (Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1963), p. 268.

211Bruce Galphin, “Negroes Resume Sit-Ins, End Truce,” Atlanta Constitution, 26 November 1960.

212King to Wilkins, 1 December 1960.

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