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To John Oliver Killens

King, Martin Luther, Jr. (Montgomery Improvement Association)
July 5, 1956
Montgomery Bus Boycott


In a 10 June letter Killens remembered sitting on the platform when King spoke at Brooklyn's Concord Baptist Church in March and being “tremendously moved by the experience.” He donated $50 to the Montgomery movement and gave “best wishes for the fifty thousand who have shown the rest of us Americans how it can be done.” Killens also sent a copy of his first novel, Youngblood, describing it as “a novel of Negro life in Georgia" that “tries to deal with many of the questions you and your colleagues are presently dealing with so ably in real life.” 1

Mr. John Oliver Killens
652 Lafayette Avenue
Brooklyn 16, N.Y.

Dear Mr. Killens:

On returning to the city, after being away several weeks, I found your most gracious letter. Since that time I have received the copy of your novel, Youngblood. I assure you that I am deeply grateful to you for your letter and for this autographed copy of your novel. I have known of your work for quite some time, and I have heard of the greatness and depth of Youngblood. I only regret that I have not had time to read it. But since I have a copy directly at my disposal, I will read it at my earliest convenience. From what I have heard about the book, I am sure that it will meet a real need in my life.

May I also express my personal appreciation to you for the fine contribution which you made to our organization. I assure you that such moral support and christian generosity are of inestimable value in the continuance of our humble efforts.

I hope it will be possible to talk with you some time in the near future. I was more than happy to know that we are natives of the same state. I notice that you are married and have two children. Please give them my best regards.

With warm personal regards.

Sincerely yours,
M. L. King, Jr.,


P.S. I asked the secretary to clear up the matter with you concerning the check for fifty dollars ($50.00).2

1. John Oliver Killens (1916-1987), born in Macon, Georgia, attended Edward Waters College and Morris Brown College before graduating from Howard University. Killens founded the Harlem Writers Guild in 1952 and published Youngblood two years later. He taught creative writing at several institutions, including Fisk, Howard, and Columbia Universities. Killens later worked in Hollywood on a screenplay about the boycott.

2. After realizing that the check had not yet been redeemed, Killens asked King to ensure that it had been deposited by the MIA.


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