In a 10 May letter DeWolf, King's dissertation advisor, informed him that the Boston University Civil Rights Scholarship Fund had raised $2,500 for “any Negro or white student, who has been expelled from college for non-violent protest against discrimination.”1 King expresses enthusiasm for the scholarship fund and shares his surprise at the outcome of his perjury trial.
Dr. L. Harold DeWolf
Dear Dr. DeWolf:
Please accept my apologies for just getting to the point of answering your letter of May 10th. As you probably know, I was tied up in court most of the month of May in the case brought against me by the State of Alabama. This inevitably threw me a great deal behind in my correspondence. I am happy to report that an all white jury rendered a verdict of not guilty in this case. I must say that this was a real surprise. We had no idea that an all white jury of Montgomery, Alabama would ever think of acquitting Martin Luther King. Even though we knew that the State had no case, and that all of their charges were false, we felt that it would have been necessary to go to the United States Supreme Court in order to finally receive justice. So this was a most significant decision. I hope that it represents a dawn of a new hope.
I am certainly happy to know of the Boston University Civil Rights Scholarship Fund. As I said to you in my last letter, the setting up of this fund is unprecedented and I know that it will serve a great purpose.2 I will be very happy to pass the word along to college students and their advisors throughout the South that any Negro or white student who has been expelled from college because of their participation in the nonviolent protest against discrimination is invited to apply for assistance in carrying on his studies at Boston University. I have already spoken to the expelled students of Alabama State College concerning this scholarship fund, and I will get the word to the other expelled students that I know throughout the South.
I am very glad to know that Jim Lawson is at Boston University.3 It is quite a tribute to Boston University that in spite of all of the other offers that came to Jim from other schools he chose to complete his education there. I can assure you that the great role that B.U. is playing in this whole struggle is most encouraging and consoling.
Before closing, I must mention something that grew out of your Atlanta visit which is profoundly meaningful. You will remember the evening that we had the small gathering at our home you constantly suggested to the faculty members of Emory University and the students of I.T.C. (The Negro theological seminary) that they should come together in small groups for the purpose of fellowship and discussion.4 Upon the basis of your suggestion, two or three of them said that night that they planned to follow it through. I am happy to report that they did follow it through, and it has developed into one of the most creative groups imaginable. Some thirty white and Negro students from Emory and the Interdenominational Theological Seminary respectively joined in the group, and they have met almost weekly since you left Atlanta. They meet in various homes and all of them have said that the experience has totally transformed their lives. Most of the white students in the group are from the South, and they admitted that they had never had an experience with Negroes before in this type of situation. Several of them have gone out with a new dedication and determination. I wanted to mention this to you because I am sure that it came directly out of your visit to Atlanta and your suggestion on the evening that we assembled at my home.
Please give my best regards to all. As soon as I get some more information on interested students I will be writing you.
Very sincerely yours,
Martin L. King, Jr.
1. DeWolf was treasurer of the fund.
2. Upon hearing of the scholarship fund, King conveyed his pride in being an alumnus in a 10 May letter to DeWolf.
3. James Lawson was expelled from Vanderbilt University's Divinity School in March 1960 due to his protest activities in Nashville; he graduated with an S.T.B. from Boston University later that year. In a 13 March letter to King, DeWolf had denounced Lawson's expulsion. Upon his arrival in Nashville in 1958, Lawson was appointed social action leader of the Nashville Christian Leadership Conference (NCLC), the local SCLC affiliate. The following year, Lawson became SCLC's director of nonviolent education.
4. During DeWolf's March 1960 visit to Atlanta, King hosted a small interracial gathering that included some of DeWolf's acquaintances. In anticipation of his visit, DeWolf had written King that he knew a number of "white church people" in Atlanta who "might both gain and give most in co-operation with you" (DeWolf to King, 12 February 1960).
OGCP-MBU, Office of General Counsel Papers, Boston University, Boston, Mass.