When this letter was written, actor and singer Belafonte was slated to play King in a movie about the Montgomery bus boycott.1 On 7 March King's secretary Hilda Proctor replied that he was out of town, but that she was sure “he will be happy to comply with your request upon his return to the city.”
Rev. Martin Luther King
c/o Montgomery Improvement Association
530c South Union Street
Dear Reverend King:
It would please me very much if I could have a personally autographed picture of you for my wife and myself to hang in our home.2 I would appreciate your sending it to me at my office, 55 West 55th Street, New York 19, N.Y.
1. “Pick Belafonte for Lead in Ala. Boycott Film,” Jet, 5 September 1957, p. 60. Plans for the film were later abandoned (Rodell to King, 14 April 1958). Harold George Belafonte, Jr. (1927-), born in Harlem, New York, studied acting at Stanley Kubrick’s Dramatic Workshop and at the New School for Social Research. One of the country’s most popular entertainers during the 1950s, Belafonte was an early supporter of King and the civil rights movement, appearing with Coretta King and Duke Ellington at the “Salute to Montgomery,” a December 1956 fund raising event in New York. While participating in the May 1957 Prayer Pilgrimage Belafonte reportedly remarked to a friend: “We play a hit and run game up here. We come down here like this and say our piece and then it’s all over. But the Rev. Martin Luther King has to go back and face it all over again” (Rev. A. A. Peters, “Pilgrimage Impressions,” Los Angeles Sentinel, 23 May 1957). Throughout the 1960s Belafonte provided financial assistance to SCLC and appeared at rallies with King during many of his major campaigns, including the 1963 March on Washington, the 1966 Chicago Freedom Movement, and the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers strike.
2. Belafonte refers to Julie Robinson Belafonte.
MLKP, MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers, 1954-1968, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University, Boston, Mass.