On 8 August more than one hundred delegates representing eleven southern states gathered at Montgomery's Holt Street Baptist Church for the third meeting of the Southern Leaders Conference. During an afternoon press conference King announced that the organization had adopted a new name, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and unveiled plans for a Crusade for Citizenship, a nonpartisan drive “to get thousands of Negroes registered for the 1958 and 1960 elections.” 1 Plans for the campaign included organizing clinics to teach “the techniques of registration and voting” and collecting evidence of voting rights infractions to prompt federal intervention.2King emphasized that the proposed Crusade would complement rather than supplant the work of existing civil rights groups.3
Following the press conference the delegates joined more than one thousand local people for a mass meeting at the church, where King reminded the crowd to “never forget the Negro ministers” for “leading us in the struggle." 4 This telegram from Randolph arrived as King and members of the executive committee held a planning meeting at Dexter the day before the conference.
rev martin luther king=
503c south union st montgomery ala=
congratulations to you and your noble associates of the montgomery improvement association, and the southern leadership ministerial group upon the great epoch making fight for civil rights and human dignity you are making. may i hope for your conference great success and that it may be an inspiration to the negro masses in the south as well as north, east and west. forward in the fight for first-class citizenship and civil rights=
a. philip randolph=
1. SCLC, Press release, 9 August 1957. While SCLC leaders did not specify a date for the Crusade’s start, delegates agreed to launch the campaign at simultaneous mass meetings in cities throughout the South. SCLC officials revealed that the group would open an Atlanta office, and treasurer Ralph Abernathy told reporters that the group hoped to raise $200,000 to hire staff. Toward this goal Russell Lasley, a United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA) official attending the conference, pledged $11,000 from his union (Art Osgoode, “Negroes Rap State Solons in Resolution,” Montgomery Advertiser 9 August 1957).
2. Additionally, the conferees issued a condemnation of Alabama attorney general John Patterson’s “gestapo type suppression of the Tuskegee Civic Association” and passed a resolution reaffirming their “faith and confidence” in King’s leadership (SCLC, Press release, 9 August 1957),
3. Emory O. Jackson, “Leaders Organize For Southwide Drive For Citizenship,” Alabama Tribune, 16 August 1957. Despite King’s assurances, NAACP officials reacted warily to news of the Crusade. After receiving a report from an NAACP representative at the conference stating that King’s group "was designed to do what the NAACP isn’t doing in the South,” Roy Wilkins suggested to director of branches Gloster Current that copies of the account be “sent to all field staff members” (Wilkins to Current, 21 August 1957; see also Report on the SCLC meeting, 8 August 1957). Complying on 23 August, Current sent a packet of information to his field staff and executive secretaries that included the report, as well as an advance copy of “Is Another Organization Needed?” a 24 August Pittsburgh Courier editorial denouncing SCLC for “covering much the same ground as the NAACP,” and guidelines for dealing with the new organization: “Southern staff members are requested to consult with the Regional Secretary or the National Office before participating in any conferences called by groups other than the NAACP.”
4. Osgoode, “Negroes Rap State Solons in Resolution.”
MLKP-MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Boston University, Boston, Mass.