Prattis was executive editor of the Pittsburgh Courier, an influential African-American newspaper with a nationwide circulation that claimed to be the “largest Negro weekly newspaper in the world. ” 1 Courier reporter Evelyn Cunningham had written extensively on the bus boycott and visited Montgomery for King’s trial, but here Prattis urges King to tell his story “in your own words.” King replied on 1 May.2
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
Dexter Avenue Baptist Church,
Dear Dr. King:
It has just occurred to us that you have never told your story in connection with the Montgomery bus situation.
We thought Miss Cunningham did an excellent job when one takes into account the speed with which she had to work. But only you, in your own words, can tell what this entire “accident of history” has really meant.
We want to offer you the opportunity to point up the significance of the Montgomery story in three articles, each of not more than 1,000 words in length. This we believe, would give you the chance to tell the public of hitherto untold facets of the story. It would also provide a device which you could use to give proper credit to all those persons who have worked with you, colored and white.
The Courier would also like to be the medium through which the Montgomery Improvement Association expressed its appreciation to the many persons and agencies, white and colored, throughout the country, who have helped through moral and financial support. We are not interested in exact figures as to the amount given, but we are interested in the spread of interest, geographically and inter-racially.
We hope very much that you will use The Courier as the medium through which you might accomplish the foregoing objectives of (1) pointing up your own philosophy in respect to the problem you have faced and the significance of the action taken as a tactic in race relations; (2) giving due credit to those who have worked with you in the Association, and (3) expressing appreciation for the moral and financial support the Association has received.
Will you do this job? You can choose your own time, but we would like to know at least five weeks in advance if and when you will do it. Thank you.
Yours very truly,
1. Quotation from Prattis’s stationery. Percival Leroy Prattis (1895-1980) was born in Philadelphia and attended Christiansburg Industrial Institute, Hampton Institute, and Ferris Institute. After working as an editor and writer for the Michigan State News and the Chicago Defender, Prattis joined the Associated Negro Press in 1923, where he remained for twelve years. After a short stint at the New York Amsterdam News he joined the Pittsburgh Courier in 1936, where he served as city editor until 1940, executive editor until 1956, editor-in-chief until 1961, and finally as associate publisher and treasurer until 1963.
2. See p. 245 in this volume.
MLKP-MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University, Boston, Mass.