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To Bayard Rustin

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Author: King, Martin Luther, Jr.

Date: March 10, 1958

Location: Montgomery, Ala.?

Genre: Letter

Topic: Nonviolence


Reiterating a request first made in a 20 February letter, King solicits Rustin's opinion on a draft chapter from his manuscript.1 In a 1 April letter to King, Stanley Levison relayed Rustin's position that the Old Testament implicitly advocates nonviolence.2

Mr. Bayard Rustin 
5 Beekman Street 
New York 38, New York

Dear Bayard: 

Enclosed please find the chapter on "NON-VIOLENCE".3

Niebuhr as well as most New Testament scholars argue that there is no doctrine of non-violence resistence to evil in the Old Testament. They argue that the New Testament teaches the doctrine of non-resistence to evil. 

What is your thinking on this? I would like to clear it up in this chapter if possible.

Sincerely yours, 
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dictated by Dr. King but not read.

1. Although Rustin frequently consulted with King and the publishers about the manuscript, his name did not appear in the book's acknowledgments (see for example, King to Rustin, 22 March 1958, and Rustin, Memo regarding publicity for Stride Toward Freedom, July 1958). In a November letter to an associate who inquired about King’s apparent oversight, Rustin explained: "In regard to King’s book and my name being left out—this was my decision and a very sound one, I believe. I do not know if you know that the reactionaries in the south have distributed several pieces of literature accusing King of being a Communist and linking me 'a Communist agitator' with him. I did not feel that he should bear this kind of burden…. For your information, the first draft of King’s book listed the tremendous help which I had given him and the movement. I mention this only because I would not want you to think that Martin is the kind of person who would take my name out because of fear. I want you to know that I insisted that he do so" (Rustin to Yone Stafford, 14 November 1958; see also King, Draft, Preface and dedication, Stride Toward Freedom, May 1958).

2. Levison also expressed Rustin’s concerns that "the concepts of non-violence are not stated in sufficiently simple or direct terms which people can readily understand," and that King’s discussion of the Montgomery bus boycott gave the impression "that everything depended on you." King incorporated Rustin’s observations on Reinhold Niebuhr’s emphasis on humanity’s potential for evil. He also quoted directly from an eleven-page memorandum from Rustin: "Love, agape, is the only cement that can hold this broken community together" (see Stride Toward Freedom, pp. 99, 106, and Rustin, "More on Non-Violence," April 1958).

3. This draft, "Nonviolence Takes Shape," became chapter six, "Pilgrimage to Nonviolence" in Stride Toward Freedom. Portions of the chapter also appeared in the September issue of Fellowship magazine; see pp. 473-481 in this volume.

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

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