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Albany Jail Diary from 1 August–7 August 1962

Author: 
King, Martin Luther, Jr.
Date: 
August 1, 1962 to August 7, 1962
Location: 
Albany, Ga.
Genre: 
Published Article
Topic: 
Albany Movement
Martin Luther King, Jr. - Arrests
Martin Luther King, Jr. - Family
Voter registration

Details

In the second part of King’s diary, published on 23 August in Jet magazine, he writes about a visit from his family, particularly his three children, whom he has not seen in several weeks. The visit, King says, “certainly gave me a lift.”1 Throughout the week, he continues to attend court proceedings on the July injunction against demonstrations in Albany. Listening to testimony by the state’s witnesses, King tells Abernathy that it is “depressing to see city officials make a farce of the court.”

Wednesday, August 1—My father and Dr. [John A.] Middleton came to see me again this morning and told me they spoke at the mass meeting last night at Mt. Zion Baptist Church.2 The crowd was so large they overflowed into Shiloh Baptist across the street, where nightly mass meetings are usually held. Dad said he would remain through today’s hearing and listen to Chief Pritchett’s testimony about how he had to arrest Negroes to protect the white people from beating them.3 Dad said he told the people I didn’t come to Albany on my own but I was invited there by the city officials to visit their jail.

Thursday, August 2—I learned about President Kennedy saying that the commissioners of Albany ought to talk to the Negro leaders. I felt this was a very forthright statement and immediately dictated a statement to the President commending him on his action.4

Friday, August 3—They recessed the court hearing until Tuesday. I still have the feeling it is too long and drawn out and that the people should keep demonstrating no matter what happens.

Saturday, August 4—More demonstrators were arrested all day today and later on Pritchett came back and asked them to sing for him.5 “Sing that song about Ain’t Going to Let Chief Pritchett Turn Me Around, he asked. I think he really enjoyed hearing it. The other jailers would just stare and listen.

Sunday, August 5—Today was a big day for me, because my children, Yolanda, Martin Luther IV and Dexter came to see me. I had not seen them for five weeks. We had about 25 minutes together. They certainly gave me a lift.

Monday, August 6—I saw Coretta again before she left to take the children back to Atlanta. I devoted most of the day to reading newspapers and letters from all over the world. Some of them were just addressed to “Nation’s No. 1 Troublemaker, Albany” without any state. I got a few bad ones like this, but most of them were good letters of encouragement from Negroes and whites.6 After dinner and devotional period I continued writing on my book. I had planned to finish it this summer, but I have only written 11 of the 18 sermons to be included. I have written three sermons in jail. They all deal with how to make the Christian gospel relevant to the social and economic life of man. This means how the Christian should deal with the race relations, war and peace and economic injustices. They are all based on sermons I have preached. The sermons I wrote in jail are called “A Tender Heart and A Tough Mind;” “Love In Action” and “Loving Your Enemies.” I think I will name the book Loving Your Enemies.7

Tuesday, August 7—We went back to court today. As I listened to the testimony of the state’s witnesses against how they were trying to prevent violence and protect the people, I told Ralph it was very depressing to see city officials make a farce of the court.

1. King was allowed out of his jail cell for the visit with his family. In an interview following their visit, Coretta said that King “feels much better after seeing the children” (Hedrick Smith, “Dr. King’s 3 Children Visit Him; He Is Allowed Out of Jail Cell,” New York Times, 6 August 1962).

2. According to an FBI memorandum, King, Sr. encouraged an audience at Mt. Zion to demand better housing and to begin a comprehensive economic boycott of white businesses in Albany (FBI, Memo, “Racial situation, Albany, Ga.,” 2 August 1962, Bureau File 157-6-2-597).

3. Pritchett testified from 30 July-1 August and again on 8 August (Transcript of Trial Testimony, Kelly v. Page, 335 F.2d 114 [5th Cir. 1964]).

4. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1962 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1963), pp. 592-593; King to Kennedy, 2 August 1962, p. 567 in this volume.

5. Thirteen demonstrators, one an expectant mother, were arrested at Albany City Hall after refusing to obey Chief Pritchett’s orders to disperse (“Refuse to End Race Protest; 15 Arrested,” Chicago Daily Tribune, 5 August 1962).

6. Wyatt Tee Walker had urged SCLC staff on 31 July 1962 to send King and Abernathy letters of encouragement, noting that “your message will abundantly aid them morally and amply supply them spiritually.” SCLC board members Kelly Miller Smith and Samuel W. Williams complied and sent words of encouragement (Smith to King, 2 August 1962; Williams to King, 3 August 1962).

7. King had initially planned to take a month off during the summer to finish his book of sermons (King to Eugene Exman, 9 March 1962, p. 426 in this volume). Although the turn of events in Albany monopolized any free time King planned to have in the summer, he explained in a letter to Harper & Brothers editor Melvin Arnold that “I did get a chance to write two or three sermons while in jail. I am sure I would have been able to send you more if the Albany jail had not been so hot” (King to Melvin Arnold, 5 September 1962). In the preface to Strength to Love, King says that “Love in Action,” “Loving Your Enemies,” and “Shattered Dreams” were written while in jail in Albany (King, Strength to Love [New York: Harper & Row, 1963], p. ix).

Source: 

Jet, 23 August 1962, pp. 14-21.