McNeil, pastor of Detroit’s Tabernacle Baptist Church, arranged for members of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Detroit and Vicinity to solicit support for the Montgomery protesters during the first three weeks of March. Writing to his friend, McNeil reports that a delegation of ministers would present their contribution to the MIA during King’s trial. On 22 March, the day King was convicted for leading the bus boycott, McNeil and the delegation turned over $4,554 to the MIA and promised further contributions. At a mass meeting that evening McNeil declared that he had “never seen such emancipated people as the Negroes of Montgomery.” 1 King wrote “answered” on McNeil’s letter, but his reply has not been located.
The Reverend Dr. M. L. King, Jr.
Minister, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church
309 South Jackson Street
Dear M. L.:
Please find herewith for your information a copy of recommendations unanimously approved by our Baptist Ministers Conference.2
Our delegation plans to arrive in Montgomery the evening of 21 March and to depart late the evening of 22 March, if such schedules are possible. I hope you can procure reservations for us at the hotel you suggested.
The Ministers Conference has appointed a delegation to bring our contribution to your Improvement Association. Many men have expressed their intentions of being there for the trial. But we have all agreed that we shall be as inconspicuous and as silent as possible. And any word that is to be said will be left to the head of our delegation. We have even suggested to our men to use the train instead of their automobiles for obvious reasons.
If you have any words of instruction for me and our men who will be coming to Montgomery I shall be pleased to receive them and to abide by them.
With warm personal regards, I am
Jesse Jai McNeil, Minister
P.S.: Arthur Johnson is arranging for me to meet Abernathy after the rally Friday night since other committments will preclude my being present at the meeting.3
1. Anna Holden, Notes, MIA Mass Meeting at Holt Street Baptist Church, 22 March 1956.
2. The conference asked local ministers not only to collect funds for the MIA but also to “write to their white minister friends and other white friends in Alabama urging them to give support to our Montgomery brethren in their present struggle” (“Recommendations Approved by the Baptist Ministers Conference of Detroit and Vicinity,” 28 February 1956).
3. On 2 March 1956 Abernathy spoke for the MIA at a Detroit mass meeting in St. John’s CME Church.
MLKP-MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University, Boston, Mass.