Robinson, a member of the NAACP board of directors best known for integrating major league baseball in 1947, expresses concern over public criticisms of the veteran civil rights organization.1 Probably refering to James Lawson’s comments a few weeks earlier, Robinson advises, “let’s not be a party to the old game of divide and conquer.”2 King replied on 19 June.3
Reverend Martin L. King
208 Auburn Avenue, N.E.
First, let me say how much I respect and appreciate all the good you are doing. You have gained the confidence of people the world over, and for that reason I am concerned about the committees that have sprung up to raise money for your defense in the coming farce trial in Alabama.4
I am also quite disturbed because of reports I have been receiving that people who claim to represent the Southern Christian Leadership Conference are saying the N.A.A.CP. has outlived its usefulness. Let’s not be a party to the old game of divide and conquer. The N.A.A.C.P., as any group, has its faults, but the good the organization has done cannot be measured. Talk like this sets our cause back.
I know you would not be party to any individual or group that would use your misfortune for their own selfish interest. We must be wary of groups who may be doing so.
Please let me know what groups you have authorized to solicit funds in your behalf and what you know about individuals who are knocking the N.A.A.C.P. in promoting the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
I hope you know I am not questioning the need. It’s only that I am concerned.
1. Jack Roosevelt Robinson (1919-1972), born in Cairo, Georgia, attended the University of California at Los Angeles (1939-1941) before serving in the United States Army (1942-1945). In 1947 Robinson became the first African American in the modern era to play major league baseball. In his first year with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson was voted Rookie of the Year, and in 1949 he was presented with the National League’s Most Valuable Player award. Following his retirement from baseball in 1957, Robinson served as the vice president of Chock Full O’ Nuts, a restaurant chain. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. Robinson served on the NAACP board of directors (1958-1967).
2. For more on Lawson’s remarks, see Wilkins to King, 27 April 1960, pp. 444-446 in this volume; King to Lawson, 2 May 1960; and Wilkins to King, 13 May 1960.
3. See pp. 475-478 in this volume.
4. Other movement supporters voiced similar concerns to King regarding the activities of the Committee to Defend Martin Luther King and the Struggle for Freedom in the South (see Harris Wofford to King, 1 April 1960, and James R. Robinson to King, 13 May 1960, pp. 403-405 and 458-459 in this volume, respectively).
MLKP-MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University, Boston, Mass.