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To Deolinda Rodrigues

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Author: King, Martin Luther, Jr.

Date: December 21, 1959

Location: Montgomery, Ala.?

Genre: Letter

Topic: Civil Disobedience


King responds to a 28 November letter from an Angolan student in Brazil who had written of her anticipated imprisonment upon her return home: “Of course, I hope to do my best while jailed and I need your advice about: if I say nothing about other Persons who have cooperated at Home for my Country, is it a sin? But I don’t want portuguese to know about them. What do you think, Dr. King, please?”1 He advises Rodrigues against giving Angolan officials the names of her associates, reasoning that “such persons should be allowed to give themselves in.” She replied on 30 December.2

Miss Deolinda Rodrigues
Instituto Metodista
Caixa Postal 12.681
Santo Amaro-Sao Paulo

Dear Miss Rodrigues:

I am in receipt of your letter of recent date. Please excuse me for being rather slow in my reply. Absence from the city accounts for the delay.

You have a very difficult problem. It is not easy to decide whether to go to jail or seek asylum in some foreign embassy. However, we must realize that in the struggle for freedom and independence there must always be a willingness to sacrifice and suffer. You must decide whether your going back to prison will in some way serve to speed up the cause of independence for your country. If it does, then your going to prison will not be in vain. If it does not, I can see why you would seek refuge in a foreign embassy. I don’t feel that you should tell the officials the names of persons who have been associated with you in the independence struggle. Such persons should be allowed to give themselves in. I think it would be much better if it came from them rather than you. However, all of these are things that you must decide for yourself. I do hope that the best for your country will work out, and you certainly have my prayers and best wishes.

I am wondering if you have received my book, Stride Toward Freedom yet.3 Please let me know so that I can be sure that you have it before you leave.

Very sincerely yours,
Martin L. King, Jr.


1. Rodrigues also wrote of her jailing that “it will be wonderful since it can help Angola and I have been wondering about the kind of tortures they have and use for ‘political’ Africans arrested.” For their earlier correspondence, see King to Rodrigues, 21 July 1959, pp. 250-251 in this volume.

2. Rodrigues thanked King for his advice and told him that she would continue her studies in Brazil for two years instead of returning to Angola to face imprisonment (Rodrigues to King, 30 December 1959). Fearing deportation, Rodrigues left Brazil for the United States in February 1960. She later returned to work with Angolan refugees in Congo (Leopoldville) and was killed in 1967 while imprisoned by an opposing Angolan political group.

3. In her 28 November letter, Rodrigues wrote that she did not want to be arrested before reading Stride Toward Freedom. After finally receiving a copy from King, she thanked him and noted the “wonderful lesson I have and am learning from your life and book” (Rodrigues to King, 29 February 1960).

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

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