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From Clennon King

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Author: King, Clennon (Afro-American Unity Party)

Date: June 2, 1960

Location: Albany, Ga.

Genre: Letter

Topic: Martin Luther King, Jr. - Arrests


The presidential candidate for the Afro-American Unity Party congratulates King on his vindication in the Alabama perjury trial but complains that the hardships of "noted Negro integrationists" have been exaggerated. "Have you suffered in any way by having been falsely charged?" he asks.1

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Assistant Pastor
Ebenezer Baptist Church
Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Brother King,

This is to congratulate you and thank God that you were exonerated. I hope the charges still held will cause you even less difficulty by being withdrawn forthwith, therefore making it unnecessary for you to be again brought to trial.2

My major concern however is the view which is so rampantly held among our people that you are a victim of some horrible persecution and that your adversaries are ignorant, villanous Simon Legrees.3 Obviously you have not been treated without prejudice, but equally obvious essentials have been industriously camouflaged.

1.) Did you ever go to prison on the charges for which you are now exonerated? (In fact, have you ever spent as much as a day of your life in jail?)
2.) Were you ever seriously in danger of Imprisonment even had you not been freed {exonerated)?
3.) Can any state court normally expect to successfully convict an innocent man in your affluential category without the concurrence of the Federal courts?
4.) Have you suffered in any way by having been falsely charged?
5.) Have you gained by having been falsely charged?

I believe that if these five questions are honestly answered, only the fifth can be answered in the affirmative.

Consequently, the most significant aspect of this matter is, "Why would Alabama officials prosecute this case when they had no practical hope of winning?" If the truthful answer is not that "they were trying to put Rev. M. L. King in jail", it must be something else these officials desired to unleash against the present integration struggle. And I suspect that this "something else" was achieved. Especially since its recognition has been so unexplainably ignored by your elite forces.

No matter what side the truth favors, we should tell the Negro people the truth. The Negro people are given the impression that the side of integration is unpopular and that its great leaders, such as you, are persecuted and undergo unremitting suffering from the whites, and that the "Toms" are the real financial beneficiaries. The larger significance of your case is that our great Negro integration leaders have grown wealthy through gifts, etc from whites as well as Negroes. [word illegible] Our great integration leaders are most influential with whites. {Your side was abetted by some of the biggest white names in America.}

In my own very trying experience, as one who would serve as a mighty voice of conscience to our people, I have constantly run into trouble raising {mere) subsistance money, while you people's personal incomes have quadrupled and more. Neither am I able to stay out of jail on false misdemeanor charges, while you noted Negro integrationists can even beat the felonies.

Yours in Unity,
[signed] Clennon
Rev. Clennon King
United States Presidential Candidate4

1. King had written a letter on Clennon King's behalf after he was denied admission to the University of Mississippi in 1958 (see King to James P. Coleman, 7 June 1958, in Papers 4:419-420). Clennon W. King, Jr. (1920-2000).

2. The charges against King in connection with his 1956 and 1958 income tax returns had been separated. King was acquitted on 28 May of the 1956 charges; the second set of charges, related to his 1958 return, were dropped on 18 July 1960 ("Alabama Drops Second Charge against King," Atlanta Daily World, 19 July 1960).

3. Simon Legree, a character in Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly, was a cruel northern slave trader turned plantation owner. Stowe's book, which originally appeared as a series in the abolitionist newspaper The Washington National Era, was published in 1852 (Boston: John P. Jewett).

4. In the 1960 presidential election, nearly 1,500 votes were cast in support of Clennon King and his running mate, Reginald Carter.

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

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