During a 12 January visit to address the Chicago Sunday Evening Club, King was approached about the possibility of speaking to followers of Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad.1 It is unclear with whom King spoke because, although Muhammad’s typed name appears on this follow-up invitation, it was signed by two temple members. On 9 April King declined to address the group.2
Dr. Martin Luther King
725 Dorsey Street
Dear Dr. King:
Being aware of your already expressed heavy speaking schedule, we are somewhat reluctant to seek from you a speaking date for the Muhammad Chicago Moslems.
However, as per our conversation at Orchestra Hall after your speech, “What Is Man?”, we are hereby writing you to ascertain a date in March or April, 1958 for your appearance before the Moslems of Chicago, and of course, other citizens, in a Free Rally in our great Temple #2 in Chicago’s exclusive Hyde Park District.
We suggest the earliest possible date in April, as that is the month of our many activities. We believe you hinted that you had never (in our conversation) appeared before a Moslem audience before. In that case, we would be honored to be your first Moslem audience.
Please be advised that we are prepared fully to assume any and all expense in connection with whatever date you are able to grant us at this time.
If considered, we shall await your earliest reply that we may give your coming ample publicity coverage.
MESSENGER OF ALLAH
Sister Daisy X
Brother Ten X
Brother [signed] William 10 X comm
Brother [signed] Sister Daisy X comm
Committees of Muhammad’s Temple # 2, Chicago, Illinois
1. Elijah Muhammad (1897-1975), born Elijah Poole in Sandersville, Georgia, moved to Detroit in 1923, where he became a close associate of Wallace D. Fard. Fard believed Islam to be the true religion of African Americans, and between 1930 and 1934 organized thousands of followers as the Lost-Found Nation of Islam in the Wilderness of North America. When Fard disappeared in 1934, Muhammad succeeded him as the leader of the movement and later moved to Chicago. During World War II Muhammad encouraged blacks to avoid military service, and in 1942 he was sentenced to a four-year term for failing to register for the draft. During his forty-one years as the leader of the Nation of Islam, commonly known as the Black Muslims, Muhammad advocated racial separatism and developed networks of schools, restaurants, stores, farms, a bank, a publishing company, and a transportation company. He sharply disagreed with King’s approach to civil rights and criticized him for accepting the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize (see Muhammad, Message to the Blackman in America [Chicago: Muhammad Mosque of Islam No. 2, 1965], pp. 240-242).
2. See p. 399 in this volume.
MLKP-MBU. Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University, Boston, Mass.