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To Dwight D. Eisenhower

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Author: King, Martin Luther, Jr. 

Date: August 13, 1959

Location: New York, N.Y.

Genre: Letter

Topic: Martin Luther King, Jr. - Political and Social Views


King urges Eisenhower to endorse school desegregation prior to Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev's September visit to the United States, noting that “it would be tragic should his visit coincide with tension and violence accompanying” the start of another school year.1 Gerald D. Morgan, deputy assistant to President Eisenhower, responded to this wire on 27 August: “The President has repeatedly declared and reaffirmed his determination that the law as set forth in the Constitution, statutes and decisions of the courts must be respected and obeyed, and feels that nothing could be added by a Proclamation to the same effect.”

the president
the white house

dear mr president, my colleagues and i recognize that the coming exchange of visits between you and mr khrushchev has introduced a new element in the international situation inspiring hope that constructive steps toward peace may result. everyone must applaud and respect this initiative which an anxious world has long awaited.

it is universally agreed that mr khrushchev must be impressed with our economic and technological achievements. he undoubtedly will be as the overwhelming evidence presents itself on every side. it is less certain that so clear and inspiring a picture of our democratic unity and ideals will emerge. mr khrushchev will arrive in our country just as schools are reopening in september. it would be tragic should his visit coincide with tension and violence accompanying the desegregation of some schools. as such situations have occurred annually for the past five years, causing our nation grave embarrassment

therefore we respectfully suggest that before the opening of schools you issue a presidential proclamation declaring that in the interest of the moral integrity of our nation and as a contribution to world peace every citizen shall peacefully abide by the decisions of the supreme court and other federal courts facilitating integration of public schools across the nation. may we have your reaction to this proposal after you have an opportunity to reflect upon it

martin luther king president
southern christian leadership conference

1. Khrushchev arrived in the United States on 15 September for a thirteen-day visit. Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev served as Soviet premier from 1958 until 1964.

Source: WCFG-KAbE, White House Central Files (General File), Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, Abilene, Kan.

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