On 13 March Kernahan, pastor of the Community Methodist Church in West Van Nuys, California, wrote to recommend that King read his Christian Century account of a community group's efforts to desegregate housing in Orange County.1 Kernahan said he felt King would “be interested to know that a major battle in the struggle for equal rights to unsegregated housing (the crux of the race problem in the North and the West) has been won in Southern California.” Kernahan also enclosed an editorial he wrote on the Montgomery movement and asked about King's impressions of Africa and his future plans.2
Rev. Galal Kernahan
6829 Gothic Avenue
Van Nuys, California
Dear Rev. Kernahan:
On returning to the country I received your very kind letter of March 13. Certainly I was more than happy to hear from you. I must apologize for not answering your other letter.3 An extremely busy schedule and the accumulation of a flood of mail account for the slowness in responding. Please know that my tardy reply is not due to sheer negligence but to the inevitable pressures of an involved situation.
As you know I am just back from Africa. There I experienced the birth of the new nation Ghana. It was a tremendous experience. I came away with much inspiration to continue the struggle for freedom and justice here in the southland. Ghana is a beautiful example of the fact that freedom can be achieved through non-violence. I predict a great future for the new nation. It has marvelous potentialities. Of course it will have problems like any new nation. It will be necessary to industrialize the new nation in order to life the economic standards. It will be necessary to extend free education in order to lift the cultural standards, for ninety per cent of the people are still illiterate. But in spite of these difficulties I am sure that with the competent leadership Ghana will move to the top.
The situation here in Montgomery at the present time is very good. The community is quite calm and integration on the buses is working extraordinarily well. The incidents that developed at the beginning of the new system have now passed away, and I am of the impression that the bus problem is about solved. Now that the bus problem is about solved we will have to move on to solve many other problems. We have come a long, long way, but we have a long, long way to go. We still confront, for instance, the most tragic inequalities in the area of voting.4 The economic level of the Negro community is far too low. The recreational facilities are appallingly inadequate. There is still the question of segregated schools. All of these are problems which we plan to grapple with in the future. Just what area we will move in next I cannot say at this time. We are now in the midst of a discussion of the future program of the Montgomery Improvement Association. Suffice it to say that we are committeed to the ideal of eradicating inequality and segregation from every area of the Montgomery community.
I am very happy to know of your interest in the race problem and the active steps that you have taken toward the solution of the problem. I have the Christian Century with your article entitled “Racism in Suburbia.” I have not had a chance to read it yet, but I plan to do it very soon (in the next day or so.) You are certainly correct in saying that the housing problem is the crux of the race problem in the North and the West.
Please feel free to write me at any time. I would appreciate you sending me any of your articles that you find time to mail. Let me express once more my personal appreciation to you for your interest in our struggle. I can assure you that your moral support and encouraging words give us renewed courage and vigor to carry on.
Very sincerely yours,
M. L. King, Jr.,
P.S. It is true that Mr. Nixon invited me to Washington for a conference. However, he did not say in our discussion together that he would come to Montgomery or to the South for a major speech.
1.Kernahan, “Racism in Suburbia: A Constructive Answer,” Christian Century 74 (10 April 1957): 457-58. Galal J. Kernahan (1925-) earned an A.B. (1947) from Chapman University and an S.T.B. (1950) from Boston University. He served as pastor of West Van Nuys Community Methodist Church (1956-1960) and has worked as a writer and editor for many English and Spanish-language publications. His column, “The World and Religion,” appeared weekly in three southern California newspapers.
2.Kernahan, “The World and Religion,” The Daily News, 27 January 1957.
3.Kernahan’s 13 March letter referred to an earlier letter to which King did not reply: “About five months ago I wrote you asking your views with reference to developments in Montgomery. . . . I know that you are extremely busy, but I have been very disappointed not to hear from you.”
4.On 6 May, 250 MIA supporters marched on the Montgomery Board of Registrars office and demanded to register. That evening King and other MIA leaders addressed a mass meeting focused on voting rights at Mount Zion AME Zion Church (“2 Registrar Boards Swamped by Negroes,” Montgomery Advertiser, 7 May 1957; MIA, Program, Mass meeting, 6 May 1957)
MLKP-MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Boston University, Boston, Mass.