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To Lewis Happ

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Author: King, Martin Luther, Jr.

Date: May 25, 1959

Location: Montgomery, Ala.?

Genre: Letter

Topic: Nonviolence


In a 9 May letter, Happ wrote of his hurt and frustration at reading stories of racist incidents in the Montgomery Improvement Association's newsletter: "I begin to read where that some injustice have been done to my peoples and there is absoluty nothing done about it but singing and praying and reading scripture lessions." Happ continued, "its just makes my heart ach to just see us drift back in to slavery agane." 1

Mr. Lewis Happ
766 Lafayette Avenue
Brooklyn 21, New York

Dear Mr. Happ:

This is to acknowledge receipt of your letter of May 9. I am very happy to know that you have been receiving the MIA Newsletter. I can well understand how you feel concerning the situation here in the South. But let me assure you that we are not merely singing and praying about our problems, we are engaged in positive action every day to solve it. I don't think any leader of the South has ever suggested singing and praying as a substitute for positive action, and certainly this is why we are suffering and being brutalized as leaders. If we were passively and silently accepting evil, we would not be facing the condemnation that we are facing today from the die hards in the white community.

As you probably know, I believe firmly in nonviolence as a way to solve our problem. And I further believe that love must be our guiding ideal. But this does not imply that we are to do nothing. It simply means that we must stand up and resist the system of segregation and all of the injustices which come our way and at the same time refuse to hate our opponents and use violence against them. For I still believe with Jesus that "He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword." 2 And he who hates does as much harm to himself as to the person that he hates.

And so I would urge you to continue to support us in our struggle and be assured that we will be on the firing line doing all that we can to solve these problems.

Very sincerely yours,
Martin L. King, Jr.

(Dictated, but not personally signed by Dr. King.)

1. The 30 April issue of the newsletter described two incidents of racist violence that would not be prosecuted because black victims and witnesses feared retribution (MIA, "Fear—A Road Block to Freedom," Newsletter, 30 April 1959; see also "Police Brutality as a Pattern" in the same issue).

2. Cf. Matthew 26:52.

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

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