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To James P. Coleman

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Author: King, Martin Luther, Jr.

Date: April 25, 1959

Location: Montgomery, Ala.

Genre: Letter

Topic: Martin Luther King, Jr. - Political and Social Views


King protests the lynching of Mack Charles Parker in Poplarville, Mississippi.1 Mississippi governor James R. Coleman replied rapidly, assuring King that “every possible effort” was being made to find the perpetrators.2 King also wired Attorney General William P. Rogers, seeking federal intervention.3

governor coleman=
jackson miss=

news reports etate that a young negro, charles parker, age 23, was abducted from jail in poplarville, mississippi early saturday morning by a hooded group of men who wore gloves to avoid finer prints. a trail of blood from the jail to the curb is alledgedly all the evidence of what might have happened to young parker. he nor his body has been found. this apparent lynching shockingly demonstrates again the all-too-fequent failure of southern law officers to provide “equal protection of the law” for negroes in their custody. although parker was charged with rape, no jailer was on duty last night. it is unthinkable that any law officer concerned with the safety of his prisoner would have left a negro charged with rape of a white woman in an unguarded jail in any southern town and in mississippi in particular. it would almost appear that mob action was being invited. we strongly urge you to use all of the constitutional resources at your disposal to investigate this outrageous deed and bring those who committed it to the bar of justice=

martin luther king jr president the southern christian leadership conference=

1. Parker, an African American, was abducted from the local jail late in the night of 24 April, just hours after his arrest for the alleged kidnapping and rape of a white woman. His body was found ten days later in the Pearl River, near the Louisiana border. Though the FBI conducted an extensive investigation, two grand juries failed to charge anyone with Parker’s murder.

2. Coleman to King, 25 April 1959. King and the governor had first corresponded during the Montgomery bus boycott, when Coleman requested that King not appear at a public rally in Mississippi (see Coleman to King, 23 April 1956, and King to Coleman, 24 April 1956, in Papers 3:220 and 221, respectively; see also King to Coleman, 7 June 1958, in Papers 4:419-420).

3. King to Rogers, 25 April 1959. In a 15 May report to the SCLC executive board, Ella Baker noted that Eisenhower was also sent a telegram protesting the lynching; neither this telegram nor any response from the president has been located. However, in what may have been a draft of the wire to Eisenhower, King noted the damage this incident would do to America’s international prestige and called for “forthright federal civil rights legislation” (King, Statement on apparent lynching of Mack Charles Parker, 25 April 1959).

Source: JPCP, Ms-Ar, James P. Coleman Papers, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, Miss.

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