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To Lillian Eugenia Smith

King, Martin Luther, Jr. (Montgomery Improvement Association)
May 24, 1956
Montgomery, Ala.
Montgomery Bus Boycott


King belatedly responds to Smith’s letters of 10 March and 3 April, thanking the novelist and activist for her encouragement and financial support. Acknowledging her three-year battle with cancer, King accepts her $50 contribution “with more humility and gratitude than any other contribution that I can recall.”

Miss Lillian Smith
P. O. Box 352
Neptune Beach, Florida

Dear Miss Smith:

I have written you a thousand times in my mind, but I am just getting to the point of putting it on paper. Absence from the city on several occasions and the accumulation of a flood of mail account for the slowness of my reply.

Both of your letters came as a great consolation to me. For many years I have had the opportunity of knowing you through your books, and now I am happy to know you in a more directly personal sense. I only hope that it will be possible to meet you in person in the near future. We are still in the midst of our nonviolence protest against injustice here in Montgomery. It has been gratifying to know how the idea of non-violence has gradually seeped into the hearts and souls of the people. There has been an amazing amount of discipline and wise restraint on the part of our people. I feel that the whole struggle here has given the Negro a new sense of dignity and destiny.

This whole struggle has given me a new awareness of the transforming power of love. I am convinced now more than ever before that we as a race must never succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter or of retaliating with hate. So in our struggle I advocate passive resistance as the instrument and love as the regulating ideal. From this you can see why your very sincere words on the power of love came as such an encouragement to me.

I will long remember your coming to our aid in this struggle for justice. We always accept financial contributions with deep humility and profound gratitude, but knowing your condition the fifty dollars ($50.00) which you sent was accepted with more humility and gratitude than any other contribution that I can recall. You can never know what this meant to us. You will remain in our thoughts so long as the cords of memory shall lengthen.

You have my prayers and best wishes for a speedy recovery. The whole world owes so much to you.

May I close by saying that even though we stand here in Montgomery amid the midnight of injustice I am convinced that God lives. They that stand against Him stand in a tragic and an already declared minority. They that stand with Him stand in the glow of the world’s bright tomorrows.

Sincerely yours,
M. L. King, Jr.,



LSP-GU-HR, Lillian Eugenia Smith Papers, MS 1283a, Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga.: Box 65.