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From Bayard Rustin

Rustin, Bayard
September 26, 1956
Martin Luther King, Jr. - Career in Ministry


Rustin encloses a memorandum he wrote entitled "A Message to American Christians” and proposes that King and Robert Graetz “sign something similar” for submission to Christian Century. In the memorandum Rustin emphasized the moral and spiritual dimensions of the desegregation movement, while bemoaning the media’s focus on legal and political issues. The Christian church had contributed to recent ‘fairly substantial”strides toward an integrated society, he argued, but it had “in its own life woefully fallen short of practicing what it has preached.” He proposed six acts that would support the integration of the church and its community. A subsequent article by King, published in Christian Century on 6 February 1957 as “Nonviolence and Racial Justice,” was not based on Rustin's draft.

Dear Rev. King,

For some time I have been deeply disturbed with the manner in which Christian publications in this country have concentrated on the political aspects of racial change, and have tended to respond in their thinking for Christians as citizens rather than addressing themselves to the moral issues beneath the struggle.

It has occurred to me that perhaps you and Rev. Graetz might challenge a more profound approach. For what it is worth I enclose a memorandum for your study and consideration. If you and Rev. Graetz could jointly sign something similar to this and submit it to Dr. Harold Fey of the Christian Century (he is the editor, as you doubtless know), several things might occur:

The readers of Christian Century would undoubtedly begin a correspondence with the magazine; Montgomery protest and its Christian significance would be under debate and the real issue from the Christian viewpoint would be under discussion.

There, of course, may be reasons why this would not be a sound thing for you to do. I should, however, appreciate hearing from you.

Bayard Rustin


BRP-DLC, Bayard Rustin Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., Reel 3, Frame 56