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From Ernest Morgan

Author: 
Morgan, Ernest (Antioch Bookplate Company)
Date: 
August 15, 1956
Location: 
Yellow Springs, Ohio
Genre: 
Letter
Topic: 
Montgomery Bus Boycott
Nonviolence

Details

Morgan, president of a publishing firm, was a strong supporter of Koinonia Farm, a Christian cooperative community in Sumter County, Georgia, formed in 1942 by J. Martin England and Clarence Jordan. The integrated community had long been a target of racist harassment. In March 1956, after Jordan became involved in an effort to desegregate his alma mater, the University of Georgia, Koinonia suffered violent reprisals and the collapse of its local customer base. Its roadside market was destroyed by an explosion on 23 July, prompting the farm to expand its mail order business.1King replied to Morgan's letter on 27 August.2

Rev. M. L. King, Jr., President
Montgomery Improvement Association
530 South Union Street
Montgomery, Alabama

Dear Mr. King:

You may remember our company as the one whose staff, white and colored alike, chipped in an hour's pay a while back to help the bus boycott.

I am writing this time on an urgent matter in which your organization may be able to help. You have probably heard of Koinonia Farm, Route 2, Americus, Georgia. Founded eight years ago by a southern white Baptist minister who was expelled from his church for preaching racial equality, this farm applies Christianity directly in the form of racial equality and common ownership, and, like your movement, is dedicated to non-violence. It has grown now to include 1100 acres and about 50 men, women and children. It is an efficient outfit, well equipped with houses, barns, trucks, tractors and modern irrigation. It has, also, of course, a nice big mortgage.

As its strength and influence grew and its inter-racial habits became better known, Koinonia has come under severe attack by southern reactionaries. To have an operation like this carried on in the deep south, by white southerners, would badly undermine their position. Not only has Koinonia run an inter-racial children's camp and accepted a Negro family in membership, but lately one of the leaders, a graduate of the University of Georgia, sponsored a Negro candidate for that institution.

This summer an injunction was brought against the camp on phony grounds.The entire camp was then moved to Highlander Folk School (with which you are probably familiar) at Monteagle, Tennessee. Recently the roadside store run by Koinonia was severely bombed, and all the farm’s insurance was cancelled. (That complicates the mortgage problem.) Children from Koinonia dare not appear on the streets of Americus without an adult. Tax inspectors go to great lengths to find technical errors in the farm books. Pressure is rising in various ways, but the farm community is standing firm.

One of the most dangerous threats is the gradually tightening boycott against the farm products. While Koinonia has many friends and enjoys a good business reputation, its enemies are slowly but surely cutting off its markets. It is at this point that your organization might help. Your members buy food. Might it not be possible for a special committee to be formed to work out some arrangement with Koinonia? Perhaps wholesale connections might be found, or possible a weekly food market could be set up. That would have to be worked out. It would mean a lot to the spirit of your members to extend fellowship and aid to a group of hard-pressed white southerners who are fighting the same battle. And it would strengthen them {(Koinonia)}, both fiancially and morally. I might mention that my younger son has spent the summer at Koinonia without pay, driving tractors and doing other farm work, to help pull them through.

I hope you will seriously explore the possibility of cooperating with Koinonia,

Sincerely,
[signed]
Ernest Morgan, President

jck
copies to Highlander, Koinonia

1. Ernest Morgan (1905-) did undergraduate work at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and, while a student there in 1926, founded the Antioch Bookplate Company (later Antioch Publishing). In the 1930s Morgan chaired the Socialist Party in Ohio and campaigned for governor on its slate. In 1949 he served on a Quaker-United Nations team that administered relief for Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip.

2.See p. 355 in this volume.

Source: 

MLKP-MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Boston University, Boston, Mass.