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To Allan Knight Chalmers

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Author: King, Martin Luther Jr.

Date: April 18, 1960

Location: Atlanta, Ga.?

Genre: Letter

Topic: Martin Luther King, Jr. - Travels


Student movements


Upon returning from a meeting in New York about southern civil rights efforts, Boston University theology professor and civil rights advocate Allan Knight Chalmers relayed to King that “several of your close friends” expressed concern that the “constant pressure. . . . has filled your program so full that your opportunities for refection have been taken away.1 In this response, King acknowledges being frustrated with his hectic schedule: “My whole life seems to be centered around giving something out and only rarely taking something in.”

Dr. Allan Knight Chalmers
Boston University School of Theology
745 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston 15, Massachusetts

Dear Dr. Chalmers:

Thank you for your very kind letter of March 6. I have been intending to answer it for several weeks now, but an extremely crowded schedule has stood in my way. Please accept my apologies for being so tardy in my reply.

I am happy to know of the important meeting which you had in New York, and to know of the top flight people that you were able to bring together to discuss the southern situation. I am convinced that the student movement that is taking place all over the South at the present time is one of the most significant developments in the whole civil rights struggle. It finally refutes the idea that the Negro is content with segregation, and we are seeing through this movement that segregation cannot be maintained in the South devoid of social disintegration.

The other main point that you raise in your letter is a matter that I have been grappling with over the last three or four years. I must admit that in many instances I have felt terribly frustrated over my inability to retreat, concentrate, and reflect. My whole life seems to be centered around giving something out and only rarely taking something in. One of my reasons for moving to Atlanta was to meet this problem head on. I felt that by coming here I would have more time to meditate and think through the total struggle ahead. Unfortunately, however, things have happened as you know which have made my schedule more crowded in Atlanta than it was in Montgomery. I have also tried to deal with the problem in another way. After returning from India I decided that I would take one day a week as a day of silence and meditation. This, I attempted on several occasions, but things began to pile up so much that I found myself using that particular day as a time to catch up on so many things that had accumulated. And so in a real sense I am in about the same position now as I was two or three years ago. But 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. For that reason I feel a moral obligation to do it.

Thank you very much for the suggestions concerning places that I may go to take the much needed retreat.2 I may well take you up on some of this. This summer I plan to take about a month off from everything in order to rest, think, and write. If I can get around to doing this it will be the first time that it has really occurred in my life. I certainly can say in recent years. Even when I was writing Stride Toward Freedom I would only take off one or two weeks at a time.

Again, let me say how deeply grateful I am to you for your concern and suggestions. Always feel free to write me about these matters. I cherish your advice. I hope things are going well with you. Do let me know when you plan to be in this section of the country again so that we will have an opportunity to have a long talk.

Give my best regards to all. We had the privilege of having Harold DeWolf in our home a few days ago.3 It was certainly wonderful to have him.

Very sincerely yours, 
Martin L. King, Jr.


1.Chalmers to King, 6 March 1960. Chalmers also wrote: “‘Thinking time’ has been filched from you. A man gets thin if he does not read, becomes inaccurate if he does not write, but most of all loses a profoundness if he does not think; or if he is deep he may only be in a rut because he has not had time to think anew as time and circumstances have gone on.” Among those Chalmers mentioned as present at the meeting were United Nations diplomat Ralph Bunche, New York minister Harry Emerson Fosdick, and federal appellate judge William Hastie. In his capacity as NAACP treasurer, Chalmers had sent King a supportive letter during the bus boycott (Chalmers to King, 14 March 1956, in Papers 3:173-174).

2. Chalmers suggested the over-garage apartment at the home of philanthropists Albert and Jessie Danielsen in Wellesley, Massachusetts, which many Boston University professors used as a retreat. He also offered his own coastal Maine home. Harold DeWolf had suggested King consider a stay at the Danielsen’s guest house for “rest, spiritual renewal and writing” during the Montgomery bus boycott (DeWolf to King, 9 November 1956, in Papers 3:423).

3. DeWolf, King’s graduate school advisor, visited Atlanta on 26 and 27 March 1960 (see King to DeWolf, 16 June 1960, pp. 472-474 in this volume).

Source: MLKP, MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University, Boston, Mass.

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