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"Message from the President"

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Author: King, Martin Luther, Jr.

Date: October 11, 1960 to October 13, 1960

Location: Shreveport, La.

Genre: Ephemera

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


The typed program for SCLC’s annual conference featured these comments. Held in Shreveport, the conference was hosted by the United Christian Movement, under the theme “The Southern Struggle and the American Dilemma.”1 Before the proceedings began, King told a reporter that support among Shreveport African Americans symbolized “their determination to move on to the better way of life that offers human dignity for all.2 During the opening session, Gardner Taylor addressed the conferees and Guy Carawan of the Highlander Folk School led a “freedom sing.” King spoke at a freedom rally on the second night.3

I am convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that the philosophy of nonviolence will redeem the soul of America. There is a great temptation to accept nonviolence solely as a stratedy, a device; this we must guard against. This is one of the chief aims of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference: To broadly disseminate through intensive training the heart of nonviolence, that our commitment to nonviolence will not only be as a technique, but shall become for us a away of life with love and redemption as its center.

The other chief aim of SCLC is in the area of voter-registration. Here again, it must be recognized that the right and proper use of the ballot is vital in our struggle for first-class citizenship. The SCLC stands ready to serve in developing and organizing grassroots voter registration programs. One of the most significant steps that the Negro can take at this hour is that short walk to the voting booth.

[signed] M. L. King Jr

1. At Evergreen Baptist Church, on the first afternoon of the conference, King told SCLC’s executive board that the organization “must do something creative this year” (Dorothy Cotton, “Minutes of annual board meeting,” 11 October 1960). SCLC’s new executive director Wyatt Tee Walker reported that the organization has successfully implemented “some of the basic organizational structure that SCLC has so sorely needed” (Walker, “Report of the director to the executive board,” 11 October 1960).

2. “Shreveport Cops Arrest 4 Top Civil Rights Leaders,” Louisiana Weekly, 22 October 1960.

3. After the conference closed, SCLC field secretary and conference organizer Harry Blake was shot at from a passing vehicle (“Assassin’s Bullet Misses SCLC Secretary,” Pittsburgh Courier, 22 October 1960).

Source: PFC-WHi, Pamphlet File, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis.

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