SCLC's New York office sent this letter conveying King's thanks to the former First Lady for serving as a member of the Committee to Defend Martin Luther King and the Struggle for Freedom in the South. He asks her to endorse an enclosed mailing announcing that the temporary committee had become "a permanent body, to be known as the Emergency Committee for the Southern Freedom Struggle." 1 Roosevelt expressed her "wholehearted approval" in a 17 October reply.2
Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt
55 East 74th Street
New York, New York
Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:
The days and nights have been so crowded with the unbroken chain of pressures and the urgent planning of new south-wide struggles, that I have been unable to do many things I have wanted to do,—foremost among which is to adequately thank you for your invaluable assistance and support in connection with my recent legal battle with the State of Alabama.3
Considering that I was exonerated by an all white jury in the heart of the deep south, the victory of course had a significance far beyond my personal vindication. It was a resounding defeat of the Reaction's all out attempt to crush any and all southern leadership. Beyond that our joint support of the student sit-ins resulted in intergration of lunch counters in 70 southern cities in a period of less than six months.
Because of all this the stage has been set for the next dramatic leap forward and everything indicates that the south is ready to move—Now.
In this connection, I am enclosing a draft of self-explanatory letter which I plan to send to all the sponsors and friends of the Defense Committee. In as much as I have taken the liberty of mentioning your name in it, as you can see, I will not send it out until it meets with your approval. To expedite matters I will have Miss Maya Angelou, the Co-ordinator of our New York office contact you.4
Once again, for all you have done, and I'm sure will continue to do to help extend the fruits of Democracy to our southern brothers, please accept my deep and lasting gratitude.
With thoughts of the very best warmest personal regards.
Very truly yours,
[signed] Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
1. King to Friend, 6 October 1960. The finished mailing probably went out on 10 November (Willoughby Abner to King, 1 December 1960).
2. After learning that Roosevelt had replied directly to King in Atlanta, Jack Murray of the New York office forwarded this letter and its enclosed draft to King: "We learned that [Roosevelt] has written you in answer. Sending you these copies so you will know what it is all about" (Murray to King, 18 October 1960).
3. For more on King's trial in Alabama, see King, Statement on Perjury Acquittal, 28 May 1960, p. 462 in this volume.
4. Angelou became coordinator of SCLC's New York office in the summer of 1960 following the departure of Bayard Rustin. She resigned in January 1961 (Maya Angelou to King and Wyatt Tee Walker, 31 January 1961).
ERP-NHyF, Eleanor Roosevelt Collection, General Services Administration, National Archives and Record Service, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, N.Y.