From Ralph J. Bunche
Author: Bunche, Ralph J. (Ralph Johnson)
Date: December 31, 1957
Location: New York, N.Y.
Topic: Voter registration
On 19 December King invited United Nations diplomat Bunche to serve on the advisory committee for SCLC's voter registration drive, the Crusade for Citizenship.1 King explained that the Crusade aimed to “implement through non-violent action the decisions the NAACP has won in the courts,” and he assured Bunche that the effort would not “conflict with the NAACP or any group in the field.” 2 Bunche, an NAACP board member, declines the offer explaining that he has “a primary obligation to give undivided support to the Association.’’ On 9 January King acknowledged Bunche's decision.
Rev. M. L. King, Jr.
The Montgomery Improvement Assn., Inc.
530 South Union Street
Dear Dr. King,
I write concerning your invitation to me to lend my name to the National Advisory Committee of the Crusade for Citizenship of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. To my regret, I find that this invitation poses something of a problem for me, because of my position as a member of the Board of the NAACP.
Since receiving your invitation, I have made inquiry and find that the NAACP convention in Detroit announced that the NAACP would undertake a “stepped up” campaign for Negro registration and voting in the South and that plans are under way to give effect to this decision. I heartily endorse the effort of the Crusade toward this same end. But since it seems to be felt that there might be some misunderstanding in the public mind about the NAACP program if its Board Members are at the same time identified with the Crusade, I must, I feel, recognize a primary obligation to give undivided support to the Association.
Please be assured, however, that this in no way lessens my hope for greatest possible success by the Crusade.
With best wishes for the New Year,
Ralph J. Bunche
1. Among the other civil rights, civic, and religious leaders King invited to serve on the advisory committee were Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Charles Diggs, Frank Porter Graham, Benjamin Mays, and Roy Wilkins. Powell, Diggs, Graham, and Mays agreed to serve. On 20 January Wilkins declined the position, but recommended that NAACP church secretary Edward J. Odom serve in his place. King wrote Odom on 23 January confirming his appointment.
2. Despite King’s assurances, news reports at the time suggested that the NAACP leaders believed the SCLC Crusade to be a duplication of the Association’s efforts (see Wilkins to King, 14 January 1958, pp. 350-351 in this volume).
Source: MLKP-MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Boston University, Boston, Mass.