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From L. Harold DeWolf

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Author: DeWolf, L. Harold (Lotan Harold) (Boston University)

Date: November 15, 1960

Location: Boston, Mass.

Genre: Letter

Topic: Martin Luther King, Jr. - Family

Martin Luther King, Jr. - Political and Social Views


DeWolf suggests that Kennedy's role in King's release from prison was "decisive" in the presidential election. He also requests that King call him and his wife, Madeleine, by their first names: "I am sure that the respect which you feel for me as your old teacher cannot exceed the respect bordering on reverence which I feel for you."

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Ebenezer Baptist Church
407-413 Auburn Avenue, N.E.
Atlanta 12, Georgia

Dear Martin,

Thank you for your letter of November 2nd.1

Madeleine and I are sorry that your coming trip to Boston must be in such a rush, but, of course, we understand your many responsibilities are heavy in these days.

Recently I had the great pleasure to meet for a few minutes of conversation Coretta's sister, Edith.2 Incidentally, although I know her first name and know that she was a Scott before her marriage, I should appreciate a note from you or Coretta, telling me her last name. I am much embarrassed in having forgotten it, and I want to get in touch with her again. If you have her present residential address, I should also be grateful for that. I know that she is studying in the School of Fine and Applied Arts.

It is one of the ironies of these times that the action of a judge in Atlanta, expressing his hostility to you and the cause which you represent, may have determined the result of the recent national election.3 I notice that high authoritative sources in both the Republican and Democratic National Committees have reported that their analyses show that the result was determined by the Negro vote in the large cities of the North, a vote which is believed on the basis of analysis to have gone almost totally to Kennedy's support. Of course, there were many factors in this, but I believe the decisive one was the picture of Martin Luther King in handcuffs, with expressions of concern and genuine efforts to correct this injustice coming from Senator Kennedy and from Nixon only a terse "No comment." 4 That had an important impact not only on the vote of many Negroes, but also on the decision of many liberals who were having great difficulty in deciding between various perplexing factors. About three weeks before those events, I had decided to cast my vote for Kennedy because of what seemed to be a much more promising outlook on foreign affairs. I believe that your unjust suffering in Georgia has rendered a genuine service to the peace of the world through the effect of this injustice and the response of the two candidates to it on our national affairs.

I shall look forward to hearing from you by telephone when you are in Boston. Of course, Madeleine and I will plan to hear you at Ford Hall, but it may not be possible to speak to you there.5

We hope that before long you will be coming to Boston again. If so, do please let us know well in advance so that if possible we can plan for you to spend some time in our home with us.

By the way, both Madeleine and I would much prefer to be called by our first names when you are addressing us. We think of ourselves as colleagues and friends. I am sure that the respect which you feel for me as your old teacher cannot exceed the respect bordering on reverence which I feel for you as one who has taught me very much and who is today one of the most creative persons in this land. I know also how deeply Coretta shares in all that you are and I feel a similar respect for her.

With warm regards to you both, I am

Most cordially yours,
[signed] Harold.
L. Harold DeWolf


1. In the letter King had declined his dissertation advisor's invitation to stay at his home during an upcoming visit to Boston.

2. Edythe Scott Bagley attended Boston University intermittently from January 1957 until August 1965, when she was awarded an M.F.A. degree.

3. DeWolf refers to Judge J. Oscar Mitchell's decision to release King on bond.

4. When asked for a statement regarding King's arrest in Atlanta, a Nixon aide reportedly responded that "the Vice President would have no comment" ("Kennedy Calls Mrs. King," New York Times, 27 October 1960).

5. King delivered "The Future of Integration" at the Ford Hall Forum on 11 December 1960.

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

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