Prinz, who met King at the May 1958 American Jewish Congress convention, requests support for his efforts to persuade the president to convene a conference on integration.1 In a 1 December reply, Maude Ballou explained that King had recently wired Eisenhower with a similar request.2
Dr. Martin Luther King
309 South Jackson Street
Dear Dr. King:
On September 26th, I addressed a letter to the President of the United States urging him to summon the country’s leaders in the field of religion, education, social welfare, labor and business to a meeting at the White House to spell out for every American the democratic principles that underlie our existence as a nation. From such a meeting, I suggested, could come a Presidential proclamation of equality in which the full authority and prestige of the office of the President would be placed in support of the moral principle of integration and the basic concept of obedience to court decisions.
Since then, the conscinece of America has been shocked and revolted by a series of acts and threats of violence, including particularly the dynamiting of a public high school in Clinton, Tennessee, and, shortly thereafter, the bombing of a Jewish Temple in Atlanta, Georgia.3 On October 12th, I wired the President applauding his statement in which he deplored the violence that had erupted and welcomed his assurance to the American people that every facility of our Federal government was being employed to track down the perpetrators of these attacks. In my telegram, I stated that these outrages emphasized once again the need for vigorous action on the part of the President to mobilize the forces of decency and democracy in our country. On October 16th, the President replied that he would, together with his associates, give our suggestion “careful consideration.”
The President’s decision to call such a meeting will depend in large measure upon whether significant portions of the American public let him know that they believe that such a meeting is practicable and desirable. I am therefore writing to you to suggest that, if you are in agreement with this proposal, you write to the President in your own capacity or as head of the body that you represent informing him of your views.
I shall be grateful to you for your comments and, if you write to the President, for a copy of your communication.
Copies of my letter and wire to the President and his reply are included.4
1. Joachim Prinz (1902-1988), born in Burkhardtsdorf, Saxony, attended the University of Berlin, received a Ph.D. from the University of Giessen, and was ordained a rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Breslau (1925). While serving as a rabbi in Berlin, Prinz preached against the Nazis and was repeatedly arrested by the Gestapo; he was expelled from Germany in 1937. In 1939 Prinz became rabbi of Temple B’Nai Abraham in Newark, New Jersey, where he served until his retirement in 1977. Prinz was president of the American Jewish Congress (1958-1966) and two-term chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. He served as a founding chairman of the 1963 March on Washington and spoke at the event.
2. King to Eisenhower, 13 October 1958, p. 509 in this volume. In an 18 December letter, Prinz thanked King for his support: “I was delighted to see that you are backing my request to President Eisenhower to call a White House Conference on the problem of the South.”
3.On 5 October three dynamite charges ripped through the newly integrated Clinton High School destroying several classrooms and a science laboratory (“Integrated High School in Clinton Wrecked by Pre-Dawn Explosions,” Atlanta Constitution, 6 October 1958). One week later Atlanta’s Hebrew Benevolent Temple was bombed.
4.Prinz to Eisenhower, 26 September 1958 and 12 October 1958; Eisenhower to Prinz, 16 October 1958.
MLKP, MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University, Boston, Mass.