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To Altona Trent Johns

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Author: King, Martin Luther, Jr. (Dexter Avenue Baptist Church)

Date: May 15, 1957

Location: Montgomery, Ala.?

Genre: Letter

Topic: Martin Luther King, Jr. - Career in Ministry


King thanks Altona Johns, the wife of his predecessor at Dexter, Vernon Johns, for her piano recital in Dexter's sanctuary on 28 April.1

Mrs. Altona Trent Johns 
Box 418 
Virginia State College 
Petersburg, Virginia

Dear Mrs. Johns:

This is just a note to thank you once more for being gracious enough to come to Montgomery and render such a superb concert. Both your presence and performance gave the community a new lift. I have listened to the great musicians for quite some time and I can assure you that none of them have given me a more pleasant experience than that made possible by your performance the other Sunday. The words expressed by Ralph Simpson in the review article which appeared in the Dexter Echo are superb expressions of my sentiments.2 We look forward with great anticipation to the time that you can come back to us again.

It was a real pleasure having you in our home, and I can assure you that when you visit us again I will be wide awake (smile). Please give my best regards to your illustrious husband.

Coretta sends her best regards and says that she plans to write you soon. 

Very sincerely yours, 
M. L. King, Jr., 


P.S. Thanks for the very fine contribution of twenty dollars ($20.00). The entire church is grateful to you for your generosity.3

(Dictated by Rev. King, but transcribed and signed in his absence.)

1.Altona Trent Johns (1904-1977), born in Raleigh, North Carolina, received a B.A. (1925) from Atlanta University. The author of Play Songs of the Deep South (1944), an illustrated survey of children’s folk songs, Johns earned her M.A. (1951) from Columbia University. At the time of her recital at Dexter, Johns was teaching music at Virginia State College (now University) in Petersburg.

2.Simpson’s article applauded her musical technique and asserted that Johns possessed a “soul for musical communication” (“A Superb Pianist—A Master Musician,” Dexter Echo, 1 May 1957).

3.In a 30 April letter to King, Johns explained: “As it is my practice to tithe any gifts or earnings to the source from which they are received, I am enclosing a check for twenty dollars for the church.”

Source: MLKP-MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Boston University, Boston, Mass.

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