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To Corinne B. Johnson

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

Date: March 23, 1959

Location: Montgomery, Ala.

Genre: Letter

Topic: Martin Luther King, Jr. - Travels

Student movements


On 19 March, Bayard Rustin telephoned Johnson to explain that King was “extremely tired upon returning from India and planned “to go directly home to Montgomery” rather than stop in Philadelphia as scheduled to meet with AFSC officials.1 The following day Johnson wrote to King requesting that he come to Philadelphia in April to discuss problems related to his visit to India: “We are aware from our correspondence with Jim Bristol that there were some arrangements which were not entirely satisfactory to you. We would be glad to hear from you any comments you may have on either the positive or less good aspects of the trip.” 2

Dear Miss Johnson:

Thank you very kindly for your letter of March 20. I, too, regret that circumstances made it necessary for me to cancel the engagement with the American Friends Service Committee on Friday, March 20. I hope it will be possible to arrange something at a later date. I am afraid that April 17, will be impossible for me because of a long standing commitment in another section of the country. Actually, I will not be able to get to the Youth March until the last minute.3 I will be checking my schedule to see when I will be in that area again.

I had a marvelous experience in India. The people gave us a very enthusiastic reception and showered upon us the most generous hospitality imaginable. While I would not be so rash as to pretend to know India after such a short visit, I can say that I gained some meaningful insights while there and I am more convinced than ever before of the potency and rightness of the way of nonviolence as a method for social change. I believe I came away with a deeper understanding of nonviolence and also a deeper commitment. Very soon Dr. Reddick and I will do some writing on our impression.4 When this is done, I will be sure to send you a copy.

At first, we felt that the schedule was rather heavy, and that more time should have been provided for an opportunity to reflect over our many experiences and to properly digest them. However, we soon adjusted to the schedule and tried to make the best of it. Jim Bristol did an excellent job in making the necessary arrangements after we were in India.

Words are inadequate for me to express my appreciation to the American Friends Service Committee for sponsoring this trip. Without this tremendous assistance I am sure that I would have been wandering around in circles in India. As I just said, Jim Bristol was wonderful. He went far beyond the call of duty to make our trip enjoyable and rewarding. We also owe a great debt of gratitude to Mrs. Bristol and their two charming daughters for joining in and assisting at every point.5

Enclosed you will find a statement of additional expenses.6 If there are any questions concerning them, please feel free to write me. I will send the medical forms as soon as we have an opportunity to see our physicians.7 We found such a load of work on our return that we will be playing catch up for a long time.

Very sincerely yours,
[signed] Martin L. King Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.


1. Johnson to Bristol, 26 March 1959.

2. Johnson to King, 20 March 1959. In her report on the trip to the AFSC Foreign Service Executive Committee, Johnson noted that “it was extremely difficult to communicate with Martin Luther King . . . almost exclusively through a third person, Bayard Rustin,” and that King did not inform Bristol “of changes in transportation arrangements, so that there was a good deal of confusion as to dates and appointments.” These administrative problems, Johnson continued, “should not obscure the real success of the visit and the opportunity provided to the Indians and to King to share insight on the non-violent approach to current problems” (AFSC, “Report on Martin Luther King’s trip to India,” 4 May 1959).

3. For King’s remarks at the Youth March, see Address at the Youth March for Integrated Schools on 18 April 1959, pp. 186-188 in this volume.

4. See King, “My Trip to the Land of Gandhi,” July 1959, pp. 231-238 in this volume.

5. King refers to Bristol’s wife, Dorothy, and their daughters Tina and Leigh. In her 26 March letter to Bristol, Johnson enclosed a copy of this letter and noted that King “certainly writes in this letter in a way in which he has not corresponded with us at all during this whole trip.” She also pointed out that King had “great praise for the way you handled things for him in India, which may not have seemed so evident at the time.”

6. In a 24 March letter, Maude Ballou forwarded Johnson a list of two additional travel expenses totaling just less than two hundred dollars.

7. King refers to medical forms Johnson had sent in her 20 March letter: “It is an AFSC policy to have all returning personnel who have been abroad examined medically immediately on their return.”

Source: AFSCR-PPAFS, American Friends Service Committee Records, American Friends Service Committee Archives, Philadelphia, Pa.

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