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From James M. Lawson

Author: 
Lawson, James M.
Date: 
November 17, 1960
Location: 
Nashville, Tenn.
Genre: 
Letter
Topic: 
Martin Luther King, Jr. - Arrests
Nonviolence

Details

Lawson urges King to resume plans for a "direct action project in Montgomery."

Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.
Southern Christian Leadership Conference
208 Auburn Avenue, N.E.
Atlanta 3, Georgia

Dear Martin:

First I should like to say that your recent bout with the powers of darkness in Georgia have only served to strengthen the struggle of the Negro for social justice and to increase the impact of nonviolence in the world and to further establish your stature as the mature voice of love in the world. That means much to us all and will mean even more to the hope for a new day across the world.

Wyatt [Walker] tells me that our plans for the SCLC direct action project in Montgomery are off because of your involvement with the so-called traffic case in Georgia. I simply want to register my feelings with you; namely, that this direct non-violent project remains an utter necessity for the present time and I believe that in your case there would be no confusion in the mind of the country or the world between it and the Georgia case. In fact, while the State of Georgia screamed about the traffic violation most people across the earth intuitively recognized your innocency which to me demonstrates a major fact of nonviolence. That is to say, it doesn't matter which law is used to intimidate or subjugate the struggle; what matters is the approach of innocency of the non-violent practitioner. I say this to reiterate that we should go ahead with the non-violent direct project in December.1

Incidentally, I also want to say that the Shreveport meeting was by all odds the best that I have attended in the past two years of SCLC.2 The whole spirit was one which made me deeply proud to be related to the SCLC and the struggle.

Best wishes to you.

Cordially yours,
[signed] Jim
J. M. Lawson, Jr.

JML:ddl

1. It is unclear what project Lawson refers to, but in an 8 December speech to the MIA's annual nonviolence institute, Ralph Abernathy called for a boycott of Montgomery's segregated stores and business districts ("Local Negro Leader Asks Store Boycott," Montgomery Advertiser, 9 December 1960). On 9 December, Lawson addressed the institute's "Youth and Student Night" (MIA, "Program, Fifth anniversary and the Annual Institute on Nonviolence," 5 December-11 December 1960).

2. Lawson delivered "The Struggle and the Stone of Stumbling" and facilitated a workshop with King on nonviolence at SCLC's 11-13 October meeting in Shreveport, Louisiana (SCLC, Program, "Annual conference," 11 October-13 October 1960). For more on the meeting, see King, "Message from the President," 11 October-13 October 1960, pp. 517-518 in this volume.

Source: 

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