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To Ralph Abernathy

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Author: King, Martin Luther, Jr. (Montgomery Improvement Association) 

Date: February 26, 1957

Location: Montgomery, Ala.?

Genre: Letter

Topic: Montgomery Bus Boycott


In preparation for his trip to the Gold Coast, King suggests actions for MIA vice president Abernathy to take in his absence. 1

TO: Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy
FROM: Rev. M. L. King, Jr., President

1. I am providing a copy of the items included in the disposition of the station wagons. Rev. Glasco will mail a copy of this to each church with a statement as to what financial category they fit.2 Please carry out the disposition of these station wagons as soon as possible.

2. I have investigated Mrs. Rosa Parks’ situation very thoroughly. I find that she is in real need, and because of her tremendous self respect she has not already revealed this to the organization. After studying her situation and realizing that the whole protest revolves around her name, I am recommending that $250.00 be given to her from the Relief Fund. Ordinarily, I would not recommend this much to any one individual, but I think her situation demands it, and the Montgomery Improvement Association owes this to Mrs. Parks above any other. Actually you may make it three hundred dollars ($300.00) if you feel so disposed. Please check with the committee and get this to Mrs. Parks immediately.3

3. You will probably be holding board meeting on March 6, and March 20. I would suggest that you use these meetings to deal with the station wagons, credit union, and also a report from the committee to study the long range program of the organization. Give the committee at least three weeks to study before making a report. Suggested persons for the committee are as follows:

a. Mrs. Jo.Ann Robinson, Chairman 
b. Rev. A. W. Wilson
c. Mr. J. E. Pierce 
d. Rev. S. S. Seay
e. Rev. W. J. Powell
f. Mr. Rufus Lewis
g. Mr. E. D. Nixon
h. Mrs. A. W. West

Naturally you are an ex-officio member. Please feel free to add others as you see fit.4

1. Addressing a mass meeting at Maggie Street Baptist Church on the eve of his departure, King implored his supporters to remain nonviolent in his absence: “If I should hear while I am gone to the African Gold Coast that Montgomery has been weak and that you have gone for your guns and done the deed of violence, I would be so ashamed I might not even want to come back again” (Ernest L. Zaugg, “The South Has a New Leader Trained at B.U.,” Boston Globe, 10 March 1957). 

2. R. J. Glasco was King’s MIA executive assistant. An MIA memorandum dated 27 February 1957 provided details about the disposition of the group’s nineteen station wagons. Churches were expected to pay between two hundred and four hundred and fifty dollars for each station wagon based on the congregation’s financial contribution to the MIA during the previous year. 

3. According to Johnnie Carr’s 7 March 1957 report of the MIA relief committee meeting, Parks received three hundred dollars. Since losing her job as a result of her participation in the bus boycott, Parks had relied on funds raised by Virginia Durr, a white supporter of civil rights. As Durr told a friend in January 1957: “Mrs. Parks has really suffered. . . . To be a heroine is fine but it does not pay off. I cannot understand why the Negro community has not taken better care of her but it hasn’t. She is a proud and reticent woman and that might be the reason. . . . Of course she cannot get any kind of job with the white community and I am afraid the Negroes in business do not think she is an asset” (Durr to Clark Foreman, January 1957). Durr and E. D. Nixon developed plans to employ Parks as director of a voter registration office in Montgomery, but they were not able to raise enough funds to open an office (Durr to Myles Horton, 5 November 1956). 

4. All suggested committee members served on the MIA executive board; all but Rufus Lewis had been indicted in February 1956 for participating in the bus boycott. Abernathy appointed each of these board members to the committee on the overall future program of the MIA. He also appointed Euretta Adair, Harold A. L. Clements, R J. Glasco, Robert Graetz, and H. H. Hubbard to serve. Abernathy, Jo Ann Robinson, and Moses W. Jones were the committee cochairs (MIA, Committee on the overall future program, 7 March 1957). 

Source: MLKP-MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Boston University, Boston, Mass.

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