On 13 July Brandstein, executive secretary of the National Committee for Rural Schools (NCRS), wrote King about the harassment of school integration advocates in Clarendon County, South Carolina.1 She asked King, who had praised the NCRS in a 1956 speech at their annual meeting, to draft a financial appeal on the organization’s stationery to raise funds for the Clarendon struggle.2 On the same day Brandstein also sent King a personal note asking about his family and inviting him to add his name to the NCRS letterhead as a sponsor.
Mrs. Rae Brandstein, Executive Secretary
National Committee for Rural Schools, Inc.
112 East 19th Street
New York 3, New York
Dear Mrs. Brandstein:
On returning to the office after a very restful vacation, I found your letters of July 13, on my desk. As always, I was very delighted to hear from you, and I am very happy to know that you are doing well.
It was deeply shocking to hear of the continual reprisals and harrassment that people of Clarendon County, South Carolina are going through. It is tragic indeed that such things like this can take place in a nation founded upon the principles of democracy and human dignity. I certainly want to do everything that I possibly can to help these good people in such a bad situation.
After thinking over your request to send a letter of appeal, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that it might not be the best thing for me to do at this time. I have, unfortunately, allowed my name to be attached to so many appeals for causes throughout the nation that it is probably becoming confusing and also ineffective. I am still raising money for the Montgomery Improvement Association and now I am also raising money for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization of which I am president. Along with these two organizations with which I am directly attached, I am also raising funds for other national organizations. Because of this, I have about concluded that I will defeat my own purposes if I do not concentrate on raising money for a few causes instead of many. I am sure you can understand the dilemma in which I find myself. I know no person in America that I regret saying “no” to more than you. But I take consolation from the fact that your broad vision will cause you to understand.
I would like to say, however, that you have my permission to use my name on your letterhead as one of the sponsors of the National Committee for Rural Schools, Inc. Since this includes a large number of names, I don’t think it would matter as it would in the case of my signature alone.
I am always deeply encouraged to hear of the great work that you are doing. Your dedication and devotion to the cause of freedom will be an inspiration to generations yet unborn. Please be assured that you have my prayers and best wishes in all that you are doing, and never hesitate to call on me when I am needed.
Coretta and the children are doing very well. Yolanda is almost three now and I can assure you that she is full of life. Her little brother, Martin Luther, III, is as fat and fine as he can be. He is nine months now. Coretta sends her warm regards.
Very sincerely yours,
Martin L. King, Jr.
1. A 1951 Clarendon County school integration case (Briggs v. Elliott) was one of five such cases grouped into Brown v. Board of Education. Despite the favorable Supreme Court decision in 1954, Brandstein reported that every black parent who supported integration had been “boycotted economically to the point where not one can hold a job, or earn a living.”
2. See King, “Desegregation and the Future,” in Papers 3:471-479.
MLKP-MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Boston University, Boston, Mass.