King informs McLaurin, coordinator of a major civil rights rally at Madison Square Garden on 24 May, that he will not be speaking at the event.1 Believing that King had agreed to speak, McLaurin had written on 1 May requesting publicity photographs.
Mr. B. F. McLaurin, Coordinator
Madison Square Garden Civil Rights Rally
217 West 125th Street
New York 27, New York
Dear Mr. McLaurin:
This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of May 1. I talked with Bayard Rustin the other day, and stated that I would not be able to accept the invitation to be at the Madison Square Garden Civil Rights Rally May 24. Certainly I regret this very deeply. I also made contact with Rev. Abernathy and found that he would not be able to come. I think that Mrs. Parks is being contacted, and in the event that she cannot come, I believe it will be possible for Mr. E. D. Nixon to come. You may feel free to contact Bayard Rustin for the major details of our telephone conversation.
You have my prayers and best wishes for a most successful program. We will forever be grateful to you and the fine citizens of New York for the real interest you have taken in our struggle.
M. L. King, Jr.,
1. Benjamin F. McLaurin (1906-1989) was born in Jacksonville, Florida, and graduated from Edward Waters College. He also studied at Brookwood Labor College. He was a porter and organizer for the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters during its early years. As a union official and one of A. Philip Randolph’s closest aides, McLaurin helped orient the brotherhood toward social activism by helping build several civil rights groups. He was secretary of the March on Washington Movement and helped found the National Committee for Rural Schools, which sent donated goods to poor people in the rural South. In 1960 he was a co-founder of the Negro American Labor Council, which fought racial bias in the labor movement.
MLKP-MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University, Boston, Mass.