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Letter to Georgia Elma Harkness

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Author: King, Martin Luther, Jr.

Date: November 8, 1958

Location: Montgomery, Ala.?

Genre: Letter

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

Martin Luther King, Jr. - Threats/attacks against


On 30 September theologian Georgia Harkness conveyed to King her “sympathy and admiration in the recent crisis which has come to you, as previously in your valiant fight for justice.” 1 After reading Stride Toward Freedom, she told King that her “enthusiasm” was “unbounded” and called the book “a great story of a great event in Christian social history.”

Dr. Georgia Harkness
Professor of Applied Theology
Pacific School of Religion
1798 Scenic Avenue
Berkeley 9, California

Dear Dr. Harkness:

While convalescing from a recent operation, your letter of September 30, was called to my attention. It certainly came to me as a great spiritual lift. I am deeply grateful to you for the kind words you said concerning my book. This book represented my humble attempt to shed some light on the difficult problem of racial injustice which pervades our nation. I am happy to know that it proved to be helpful to you.

You needed not take the extra paragraph to introduce yourself to me. I have known you for several years through your writings. When I was a student in theological seminary (at that time I think you were on the faculty of Garrett Biblical Institute) I had the great privilege of reading some of your books and articles. When I went to Boston University for my doctoral studies, I naturally heard your name many times, for Boston University, as you know, is very proud of you and never forgets to mention that you are one of its graduates. I have long admired your Christian witness and your sound theology. I hope it will be possible for us to meet personally in the not-too-distant future.

May God continue to bless you in your most important work.

Very sincerely yours,
Martin L. King, Jr.

1. Georgia Elma Harkness (1891-1974) graduated with an A.B. (1912) from Cornell University and later received her M.A. (1920), M.R.E. (1920), as well as Ph.D. (1923) from Boston University. She served as associate professor at Elmira College (1922-1937) and later at Mount Holyoke College (1937-1939). From 1940 to 1950 Harkness was professor of applied theology at Garrett Biblical Institute, making her the first woman to teach theology at an American seminary. In 1950 Harkness accepted a professorship at the Pacific School of Religion, from which she retired in 1961. Harkness, an ordained Methodist minister, campaigned for gender equity in the United Methodist Church. She published over thirty books on applied theology.

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

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