Randolph, international president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, informs King of efforts to arrange a meeting of African-American leaders with President Eisenhower. King had been unable to attend an April 1956 "State of the Race” conference at which Randolph and other delegates proposed such a meeting.
Dr. M. L. King, President
Montgomery Improvement Association
530C So. Union Street
May I advise that I have written President Dwight D. Eisenhower for a conference with a group of representative Negro leaders, for the purpose of discussing problems and proposals involving civil rights and racial justice.
May I say that this is really a follow-up letter to several letters that have been sent in the past requesting a conference.1 It is also proper to inform you that the President, through a representative, expressed friendly interest in arranging such a conference but it was never carried out because of unfavorable circumstances involving timing. Thus, it may be considered that a conference with the President has virtually been agreed upon and that a date and time are to be arranged.
In discussing the question of a conference with representatives of the White House, concern was expressed about the number of persons to compose a committee, stressing the importance of a relatively small committee. But in view of the importance of this conference I have expressed an interest in the committee being reasonably representative, in terms of numbers, indicating a desire for a committee of sixteen persons. Thus, you are one of the sixteen selected to serve on the committee.2 However, if the President insists on reducing the number, we have no alternative except to do so, which may affect membership in the committee by some of the proposed persons to serve on it.
May I know if you are disposed to join with such a committee and if you will be available if, as and when such a conference is granted. Kindly fill out the enclosed card and mail same back to me.
Before we go in to meet with the President, I would like to suggest that after the number in the committee is agreed upon, the said committee meet in Washington, D.C. for the purpose of going over proposals for presentation to the President and also agreeing upon persons who may be called upon to make brief comments.
This action, with a view to securing the conference with the President, is being taken in accordance with the decision of the State of the Race Conference which was held in Washington, D.C., April 24, 1956. To this end, I will keep you informed of developments.
A. Philip Randolph
1. Randolph had previously written the president on 8 May 1956 and 29 December 1956 (see Randolph to Eisenhower, 10 June 1957).
2. On 15 January 1957 Randolph circulated a list of those initially chosen to meet with the president: Irene McCoy Gaines, president, National Association of Colored Women; Lester Granger, director, National Urban League; J. H. Jackson, president, National Baptist Convention; David Licorish of Abyssinian Baptist Church; Thurgood Marshall, director-counsel, NAACP Legal Defense Fund; Vivian Carter Mason, president, National Council of Negro Women; Benjamin E. Mays, president, Morehouse College; Loren Miller, attorney, NAACP, Los Angeles; Carl Murphy, president, National Newspaper Publishers Association; Bishop D. Ward Nichols of the AME Church; F. D. Patterson of the Phelps Stokes Fund; C. B. Powell, publisher and editor of the New York Amsterdam News; M. P. Webster, international vice president, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; and Roy Wilkins, executive secretary, NAACP (Randolph, Form letter to friend).
MLKP, MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Boston University, Boston, Mass.