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From Allan Knight Chalmers

Chalmers, Allan Knight (Boston University)
March 14, 1956
Boston, Mass.


King viewed Chalmers, professor of preaching and applied Christianity at Boston University's School of Theology, as an activist theologian with a "passion for social justice."1 As treasurer of the NAACP, Chalmers assures King that the organization "will back you at the national level without any questions." He also invites King, who was scheduled to speak in Boston on 23 March, to meet with students; King canceled the speech, however, after his 22 March conviction. Fred Gray spoke in his place at Boston's Union Methodist Church.

Reverend Martin Luther King
309 Jackson Street
Montgomery, Alabama

Dear Martin:

In one sense I hate to add another letter to that pile on your bed and desk. I have a feeling that sometime your lovely wife is going to put a special delivery on the baby instead of a change of diapers.

Nevertheless, I do want to get in touch with you about a couple of things. In the first place, as you know, we will back you at the national level without any question. I talked with Roy Wilkins about it the other day, and he says that he had written you to that effect.2 We don't want to throw any money away unnecessarily, but neither do we want to skimp on it when it is going to be of value for you. We are very much pleased with the way in which you are handling this whole matter from your end. We will work in cooperation with you in any way that seems to be necessary.

I had a very interesting time in Tuscaloosa and in Birmingham after I left you, and will be down the first week in April to work on the same situation which has been opened up by my previous visit. The white churches are, in all probability, going to give some leadership, which, to me, was somewhat unexpected. I have, in addition to that, some very good contacts, both with the state administration and with the University of Alabama, so that we can look forward with some confidence on this whole area of development.

I am hoping to see you when you are up here on Friday the 23rd (if, by that time, you are out of custody in the courts, as I hope you will be), and you may be interested to know that I shall be the speaker for the Boston area in the sympathy meeting we are holding at noon on the 28th in Old North Church.

When you are here on the 23rd, our students at Boston University would be very grateful if they had a chance to meet with you. I have several alternatives in mind-one is that you might meet with the group where I could set it up for you in the period of one to three or any portion of that you want. A second alternative would be that you could come in to my seminar from eleven to one, and I would allow visitors to come in for the general forum conference with you, if that would be at all congenial. The first alternative is preferable, but this second would be o.k., if that would fit your schedule better.

A third alternative would be arranging in some way for them to meet with you, either at Union Church, where, I assume, you are to speak, or to have you come up here afterwards for those men who could be present for a late Friday meeting.

Of course, any of these alternatives may not be in the picture at all because of other engagements you may already have, only we are eager to be in touch with the situation, both for whatever help we can give and for the men here as a part of their involvement in this whole matter which has moved so strongly in your area.

Drop me a note about the alternatives, and remember that one of them is that you can’t be with us at all, and we would understand that if that is true.

My best to you and your wife and your dear baby. I hope all things are working along well for you, and appreciate the calm and sturdy way in which you are doing your job.

As ever,


{P.S. Don’t forget you were going to send me a couple of copies (an original if you can get it) of that Citizens Council leaflet we discussed.3 I'm in touch with the administration at Washington, and such things help build real sympathy with our "cause"}

1. King, Stride Toward Freedom, p. 100. Allan Knight Chalmers (1897-1972), a native of Cleveland, Ohio, received his B.A. (1917) from Johns Hopkins University and his B.D. (1922) from Yale University. Chalmers was minister of New York's Broadway Tabernacle Congregational Church from 1930 to 1948, when he joined the faculty at Boston University; he remained at Boston University until his retirement in 1962. His positions in the service of social justice movements included chair, Scottsboro Defense Committee; cochair, Fair Employment Practices Committee; president, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; and executive committee member of the Federal Council of Churches, FOR, ACLU, and the Religion and Labor Foundation.

2. See Wilkins to King, 8 March 1956, pp. 165-167 in this volume.

3. Chalmers refers to a leaflet entitled “A Preview of the Declaration of Segregation” that was distributed at a Citizens Council meeting in Montgomery. The anonymous author advocated using violence to halt the end of segregation, reviled African Americans, and expressed fear that King would become president ofthe United States (see “Preview,” 10 February 1956).


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