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To Juanita Jelks

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Author: King, Martin Luther, Jr.

Date: August 8, 1959

Location: Montgomery, Ala.?

Genre: Letter

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


King replies to Jelk's 6 August request to discuss the Greater Gadsden Housing Authority's plan to demolish the homes of black residents in Gadsden, Alabama, as part of an urban renewal project.1 As secretary of the Citizen's Protective Association of Gadsden, Jelks pleaded: "We need help from all sources of strength, spiritual, mental, and financial." 2 In a 9 September letter, Jelks thanked King for meeting with the committee from Gadsden on 2 September.

Mrs. Juanita Jelks
525 Lamar Street
Gadsden, Alabama

Dear Mrs. Jelks:

Thanks for your very kind letter of August 6. I have read the contents very scrutinizingly. Certainly, I am deeply sympathetic with the plight of Negroes in Gadsden in the efforts of the segregationists to uproot your home and preserve a system that is destined to die.

I am sorry that I did not know about this situation before. I am sure that it is due to my own oversight. We have been involved in recent months with so many responsibilities I have often overlooked many important things in our home state.

I will be more than happy to talk with you about the situation in Gadsden. Unfortunately, however, my calendar reveals that I will have to be out of the office for the next three weeks. This means that the only time that I can possibly see you and your committee would be the week of September 1st. Any day that week would be satisfactory to me with the exception of Tuesday. I will have to be leaving town again on the sixth of September for a three week lecture in California and Hawaii. Please let me know by return mail whether it will be possible for you to come one day that week (September 2, 3, or 4) and I will be happy to place it on my calendar.

Please know again that I am deeply sympathetic and concerned about your present plight. I hope I can be of some assistance.

Very sincerely yours,
Martin L. King, Jr.

1. Earlier in the summer, Jelks and four other plaintiffs had lost their case against the City of Gadsden and the Housing Authority (Barnes et al. v. The City of Gadsden, Alabama, et al., 268 F.2d 593 [1959]).

2. Jelks informed King that she was referred to him by NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund attorney Constance Baker Motley. Juanita Jeanette Jelks (1916-1980), born in Atalla, Alabama, worked as a bookkeeper for the Atlanta Life Insurance Company. She was a member of the Gadsden NAACP and the Etowah County Voters League.

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

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