Hundreds of telegrams and letters arrived in King’s office from grass-roots groups around the country, including this one from an interracial club in Oakland. Neal refers to the National Deliverance Day of Prayer planned for 28 March and initiated by Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., pastor of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church. Powell denied press claims that he had called for a work stoppage to support the Montgomery boycott; instead, as Neal suggests, many participants supported the cause by donating an hour’s pay.1 King noted on the bottom of the telegram that “we deeply appreciate your concern for our situation here in Montgomery,’’ but his actual reply has not been located.
rev martin luther king
we’re meeting tonight both white and colored in our club to map a plan to raise one million dollars to give you people free bus service. but first we would like to know if you want us to help. instead of stopping work one hour as president powell said we will give up one hours pay and make up the money. this is better than stopping work. we will still pray and this money will help more. dont fight or cause anybody harm but hold out and pray. our prayers are with you. waiting on an answer from president powell and you. we will start our work as soon as as we get an answer
1. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (1908-1972), born in New Haven, Connecticut, and raised in New York City, received his B.A. (1930) from Colgate University and his M.A. (1932) from Columbia University. While serving as pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church (1937-1972) Powell was elected to the New York City Council in 1941, remaining a member of that body until his election to Congress in 1944. He represented Harlem in the House of Representatives until 1970. On 28 March Powell addressed more than five thousand persons attending a National Deliverance Day observance in New York to display support for the Montgomery boycott and to mark the anniversary of congressional approval of the Fifteenth Amendment. National Deliverance Day was officially endorsed by the Massachusetts legislature and California’s governor (see NAACP press release, Powell Prayer Plan Supported by NAACP, 1 March 1956).
MLKP-MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University, Boston, Mass.