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From Cynthia and Julius Alexander

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Author: Alexander, Cynthia; Alexander, Julius J.

Date: February 14, 1960 to February 21, 1960?

Location: Montgomery, Ala.

Genre: Letter

Topic: Martin Luther King, Jr. - Arrests

Martin Luther King, Jr. - Family


The Alexanders, Dexter Church congregants, share with King their response to his first sermon as co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church.1 They also report hearing news that King had been indicted on 17 February for perjury.2 The Alexanders bemoan King’s perjury indictment, commenting “that many months ago you said we must be prepared to face some real dark days ere freedom comes.”

Dear Pastor,

This has been a rather dreary Sunday, raining continuously; Sunday School attendance was fair, so was Church attendance. Our minister for the morning service was Chaplain B. C. Trent, of Maxwell Air Force Base.3 He brought what I considered a challenging and inspiring message. The text was taken from that passage of Scripture which deals with the reports of the spies sent into the promised land prior to itss conquest; and the text specifically was one from which you have preached “and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so were we in their sight.”4 His central theme was relative to one’s image of himself, which necessarily determined the image others would have of him. He also dealt with the immediate importance of the here and now as well as the ultimate importance of the hereafter. In summarizing his admonition was that the time now is and always has been for the Negro to appraise himself without thought of inferiority, and to go in and “possess the land”, for in no instance did God intimate to the Children of Israel that the land would be “handed over to them”.

It was indeed a privilege to be present in Ebenezer of the occasion of your initial sermon as co-pastor, and to share the rich spiritual experience of the morning worship.5 At the next meeting of the January Club it was my privilege to tell about it and share the experience with our fellow club members. It was also a pleasant treat to run across Mrs. King downtown the Saturday we were there, and slo {also} to see your parents. Since returning we have both been hit by “flu”. I was out for a few days and my wife is still convalescent from that and her eye ailment.

We were looking at the Dave Garroway show when the neqs came thru, relative to your indictment and subsequent arrest.6 Although I had put nothing beneath the enemies of right and justice, and had been expecting some sort of action against us on the part of the state, I was not quite prepared for this “new low”. To say that we have not the slightest doubt of your innocence, your honesty, and your integrity would superfluous. That is without question. So I am making no attempt to reassure you of a fact you know so well. I do wish you and Mrs. King and your family to know you have our prayers, and our support, in this another attempt to destroy a cause by hitting at the leader. I was disturbed at the first report that you would fight extradition, yet I realized that any decision you made would be the result of careful and prayerful consideration.7 Yet, I felt that this would give the enemy an opportunity to say you had something to hide, and also the chance to hang the brand of “fugitive” on you, with the attendant condition of every law enforcement agent in Alabama waiting for the chance to pounce on you once you crossed the state line. The whole thing is a rather ugly picture, but we take consolation in the fact that the same God, who early one morning in the kitchen at 309 S. Jackson said “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” still lives and “has the whole world in his hand”.8 The message of “Non Violent Resistance” which sounded in Montgomery is reverberating all over the world. Every day the papers are full of the echoes and re-echoes. We happened to catch a great portion of Eric Severid’s T.V. program a few days ago showing Freedom Bursting Forth in Africa (it was last Sunday).9 It was a moving thing to witness. Truly God is Marching On.

I cannot help but recall that many months ago you said we must be prepared to face some real dark days ere freedom comes, and more and more I realize that, and the outlook from the forces of government is not too encouraging, for the moral aspect of right and justice has been eclipsed by the shadow of political expediency. Yet if I may quote you “Beyond the dim unknown God keeps watch over His own”.10

In behalf of my wife and my parents I bid you faint not.11 We believe in you and the God you serve. Our homes are open to you and to yours always.

Devotedly yours,
[signed] Cynthia & Julius
Cynthia and Julius Alexander

1. Julius J. Alexander (1901-1983) was born in Montgomery and left home to complete high school in Washington, D.C. He returned to Montgomery to join his father’s construction contracting firm and eventually set up his own business in specialty carpentry work. Alexander served as a church deacon and participated in several church committees during King’s tenure. His wife, Cynthia Drake Smith Alexander (1899-1991), was secretary to Alabama State College president H. Councill Trenholm and served as vice chair of Dexter’s Courtesy Committee.

2. Although the letter is dated 14 February, many of the events described in it, including King’s 17 February arrest, took place after that date.

3. According to the 3 February Dexter Echo, B. C. Trent was scheduled to preach at Dexter on 21 February 1960.

4. Cf. Numbers 13:33.

5. According to a 9 February 1960 article in the Atlanta Daily World, a group of visitors from Montgomery, including Lawrence D. Reddick, attended King’s first service as Ebenezer’s co-pastor. King introduced them to his new congregation after his sermon (Delaney, “‘Follow Way of Love,’ Dr. King Asks People”).

6. Dave Garroway hosted NBC’s “Today Show” from 1952 until 1961.

7. On 18 February King announced he would not fight extradition but would “honorably go back to Alabama to face trial” (“King Won’t Fight Extradition,” Atlanta Constitution, 19 February 1960).

8. The Alexanders recall King’s 27 January 1957 sermon at Dexter, when he recounted that a divine presence had comforted him during the Montgomery bus boycott (see “King Says Vision Told Him to Lead Integration Forces,” 28 January 1957, in Papers 4:114-115).

9. CBS aired “Nigeria: The Freedom Explosion,” hosted by Eric Sevareid on Monday, 15 February 1960.

10. The Alexanders refer to a stanza from James Russell Lowell’s poem The Present Crisis (1844), which King often quoted in his public addresses.

11. Alexander refers to his parents, James and Hattie.

Source: MLKP-MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University, Boston, Mass.

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