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Foreword to A First Step Toward School Integration

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Author: King, Martin Luther, Jr.

Date: May 1, 1958 to May 31, 1958

Location: New York, N.Y.

Genre: Pamphlet

Topic: Brown v. Board of Education


In a 12 March letter Rustin asked King to sign the foreword of a Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) pamphlet on school integration: “Your signature, . . will help to give this work an even wider circulation. ”He enclosed a draft of the pamphlet and invited King to suggest changes for this introduction. In a 19 March reply to Rustin, King agreed to lend his signature to the foreword as it was drafted: ‘‘I have read the whole document and find some invaluable suggestions there. It certainly is a good job and I am sure that it will be quite helpful in the present crisis.” 1

Can the method of non-violence that erased the color line in Montgomery’s buses be applied effectively to schools? This pamphlet seeks an answer to that question, so urgent in southern communities where the Supreme Court decision of 1954 is not yet accepted.

CORE (the Congress of Racial Equality) told the Montgomery story in Our Struggle a pamphlet in which I described the year-long boycott of segregated buses.2

In this pamphlet Anna Holden tells how a CORE group helped parents and children when—despite the violence of segregationist mobs—desegregation was begun in the Nashville schools in the fall of 1957.3 Alex Wilson, the newspaperman who was beaten by a Little Rock mob, wrote in the Tri-State Defender that the two groups which made integration possible in Nashville were CORE and the Negro PTA.

Since CORE was organized in 1943, its affiliated groups have worked steadily by peaceful means to end discrimination in restaurants, hotels, theaters, transportation and employment. Nashville was an important test of non-violent techniques in the schools. The outcome suggests that the same methods can be used in other southern communities where court-ordered integration is being thwarted by terrorism.

The key to success in Nashville was CORE’s policy of backing up the parents—by visiting them and by escorting their children to integrated schools. If Little Rock had had a strong interracial group, Governor Faubus might have been checked without the use of federal troops.


1. King later signed a cover letter that accompanied a mass mailing of the pamphlets (James R. Robinson to King, 7 August 1958; Form letter to accompany A First Step Toward School Integration, 7 August 1958; see also Anna Holden, A First Step Toward School Integration, June 1958). In October 1957 King had agreed to serve on CORE’s advisory board (Robinson to King, 3 October 1957).

2. “Our Struggle” originally appeared in the April 1956 issue of Liberation (see King, “Our Struggle” in Papers 3:236-241).

3. Anna Gladys Holden (1928-), born in Ocala, Florida, earned a B.A. (1950) from Florida State University and an M.A. (1955) from the University of North Carolina. Holden worked for the Southern Regional Council (SRC) from 1951 until 1955, when she joined a biracial research team from Fisk University that traveled to Montgomery in the early days of the bus boycott to collect eyewitness accounts of the movement (see for example, Juliette Morgan, Interview by Holden, 7 February 1956; and Notes, Statements after decision, State of Alabama v. M. L. King, 22 March 1956). In 1957 Holden became chair of Nashville’s CORE chapter.

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

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