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From A. J. Muste

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Author: Muste, A. J. (Abraham Johannes)

Date: September 23, 1958

Location: New York, N.Y.

Genre: Letter

Topic: Martin Luther King, Jr. - Threats/attacks against


While recovering at Harlem Hospital, King received sympathy letters from many supporters. Vice President Nixon wrote King on 22 September: “I was terribly distressed to learn of the attack made on you in New York…. To have this incident added to all of the unfortunate indignities which have been heaped upon you, is indeed difficult to understand.” Muste, a veteran pacifist and former executive secretary of FOR, offers this expression of sympathy.1

Dr. Martin Luther King 
Harlem Hospital 
New York, New York

Dear Martin King:

You are of course receiving many more messages than you can possibly attend to. Still, one who is so deeply involved, in a certain sense, as I am in the work you are doing, cannot refrain from writing, if only to relieve his own spirit.

May you have a quick and complete recovery.

May I, in the next place, say to Mrs. King how deeply I feel for her in what she has gone through in recent years and is experiencing now? You know something of the activities, not infrequently involving physical danger and insecurity, in which I have been involved. For over 45 years I had a wife who bore with all this, did so with unfailing gallantry and courage, gave me her trust, and practically never, even momentarily, lost her joyous buoyancy. I know that a career such as yours is not possible, except perhaps for celibate priests, unless one has such a wife.2

Through your arrest some weeks ago and much more through your attack last Saturday God himself has marked you, as I am sure you realize yourself. The marks you bear in your body are, as were those of the Apostle, the marks of the Lord Jesus.

Above any other man, Negro or white, you are now inevitably the instrument both to break down the color bar in this country and to reconcile and heal the people involved in the tragic situation which now obtains. There may be times when you will be tempted to throw off so heavy a burden. But His burden is light precisely when we take his yoke upon us.

My thoughts and prayers are with you.

Sincerely yours, 
A.J. Muste


{P.S. Since dictating this Bayard has spoken to me about the conference next week which, I understand, you want me to attend.3 I shall do so, of course.}

1. On 30 September theologian Georgia Harkness also sent her condolences; King replied on 8 November, see pp. 529-530 in this volume. Roy Wilkins expressed his sympathy and support in a 25 September letter: “If there is anything we can do—anything—you have only to ask.”

2. Muste’s wife, Anna, died in 1954.

3. Muste refers to the Norfolk, Virginia, meeting of SCLC, at which he served as a discussion leader and spoke on nonviolence.

Source: CSKC, INP, Coretta Scott King Collection, In Private Hands.

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