King turns down an invitation to speak at the annual conference of the National Committee for Rural Schools on 17 November. Brandstein, the organization's executive secretary, rescheduled the conference for 15 December to accommodate King, who accepted the revised invitation on 20 August. 1Formed in 1948 by Benjamin McLaurin and other members of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the committee sent food, clothing, books, seeds, fertilizer, and other materials to southern blacks suffering economic hardships as a result of their civil rights activism. In this letter King applauds their efforts to establish a cooperative general store in Clarendon County, South Carolina, where the local Citizens Council initiated reprisals against those fighting for school desegregation. 2
Mrs. Rae Brandstein, Executive Secretary
National Committee for Rural Schools, Inc.
112 East 19th Street
New York 3, New York
Dear Mrs. Brandstein:
I was more than happy to talk with you by phone a few days ago. Your letter and the enclosed check were received within two days after our telephone conversation. Thanks a million for your continued interest in our behalf.
After checking my calendar, I find that I have made a previous commitment for the same date that you are desirous of my speaking for your annual Conference-Luncheon. But for this, I would be more than happy to serve you. I had thought for a while that it would be possible to make both engagements since the other engagement is in the evening. But after checking plan schedules I find that it is absolutely impossible. Please know that I regret this very deeply. It is even more regretable in the light of the fact that you have taken such a personal interest in me and my family. Please feel free to call on me at any other time.
Let me again commend you for the project you are undertaking in Clarendon County. Such a general store will solve many problems for the Negro community. More and more this type of thing will have to be done if the Negro is to stand up amid the economic reprisals that he is confronting in the southland. Such a project is both economically sound and morally praiseworthy. The good will that you have evinced through the great work that you are doing will long be remembered. Those of us who stand amid the midnight of injustice are able to see signs of the daybreak of justice and freedom because of the noble and courageous stands and attitudes that you are taking.
Mrs. King sends her best regards. We are looking forward with great anticipation to meeting you personally. Please give our regards to Kenneth and Mamie Clark. 3 We were very sorry to hear of the passing of their dear friend.
M. L. King, Jr.,
1. Rae Brandstein, born in New York City, studied at the University of Berlin, Columbia’s School for Journalism, and Rand School for Social Science in New York. Before organizing the National Committee for Rural Schools she was the educational director and an organizer for the Congress of Industrial Organizations, an area coordinator for the Labor League for Human Rights, and a union representative on New York’s War Labor Board.
2. The committee sent more than $500,000 worth of materials to Clarendon County blacks during 1956. See remarks by Joe Black, a member of the National Committee for Rural Schools (NCRS), at 15 December NCRS conference, reprinted in Joseph F. Wilson, ,Tearing Down the Color Bar: A Documentary History and Analysis of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989), pp. 294-295. See also King’s conference address, “Desegregation and the Future,” 15 December 1956, pp. 471-479 in this volume.
3. Kenneth Bancroft Clark (1914-) married Mamie Phipps (1917-1983) in 1938. Clark, born in Canal Zone, Panama, earned his B.A. (1935) and M.S. (1936) at Howard University and his Ph.D. (1940) at Columbia University. He taught psychology at City College of New York from 1942 to 1975. A board member of the National Committee for Rural Schools, he introduced King at its 15 December 1956 conference. He later served as the organization’s vice president.
MLKP-MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Boston University, Boston, Mass.