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To F. Thomas Trotter

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Author: King, Martin Luther, Jr. (Montgomery Improvement Association)

Date: April 24, 1957

Location: Montgomery, Ala.?

Genre: Letter

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



In a 23 February letter to King, Trotter, a classmate from Boston University, relayed a conversation he had with Alexander Miller, a theologian who shared Reinhold Niebuhr's skepticism of nonviolence.1 According to Trotter, Miller admitted that the example of Montgomery “is forcing many of us to re-evaluate our theologies with respect to the nature of power.” Trotter explained to King that he believed Miller's comment to be “especially significant in view of the Niebuhrian criticisms in the past with reference to non-violence and pacifism.” Trotter speculated that this may indicate “a profound new shift in contemporary theology, stemming from an appreciation of your work.”

Rev. F. Thomas Trotter, Minister
Monte Vista Methodist Church
5098 Benito, Ontario
Ontario, California

Dear Tom:

On returning to the country a few days ago I received your very kind letter of February 23. I can assure you that I was more than happy to hear from you, and to know that you are doing so well. I was not aware of the fact that you had moved to the state of California.

I am deeply grateful to you for your kind words and great moral support. You can be assured that all of this is of inestimable value in the continuance of our humble efforts. As you well know we are grappling with a very difficult problem and certainly there is no easy solution. I am realistic enough to know that the problem can not be solved without a real period of struggle, but I am optimistic enough to believe that the problem will be solved, and that in the not too distant future. It is my only prayer that the struggle for freedom and justice in the south we will remain non-violent in spirit and in deed.

I was in Boston last week and had a very rich fellowship with Dr. DeWolf and President Case.2 I had an opportunity to talk with the students in the school of theology and this was a real experience. Things are going very well around B.U.

You have my prayers and best wishes for a most successful pastorate. I hope it will be possible to see you in the not too distant future.

Very sincerely yours,
M. L. King, Jr.,


P.S. I was very happy to get the comment made by Alexander Miller, and to know that he is re-evaluating the whole question of non-violence.

{Signed in the absence of Rev. King]

1. Frederick Thomas Trotter (1926-), born in Los Angeles, California, received his B.A. (1950) from Occidental College and his S.T.B. (1953) and Ph.D. (1958) from Boston University. He served as pastor of Monte Vista Methodist Church in California (1956-1958) and taught at Southern California School of Theology (1957-1973). Alexander Miller, a Presbyterian minister from New Zealand, taught in the religious studies department at Stanford University from 1950 to 1960.

2. On 3 April King held an informal discussion session with Boston University theology students before delivering “Justice Without Violence” at Brandeis University in the evening. L. Harold DeWolf was King’s dissertation advisor at Boston University; Harold C. Case was president of Boston University from 1951 to 1967.

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

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