Gregg’s book The Power of Nonviolence, first published in 1935 and informed by Gregg’s personal witness of Gandhian satyagraha campaigns in India, was a major treatise on nonviolent resistance.1 It was one of several books on the subject that Glenn Smiley gave King when they met in February. Gregg concludes his letter of support by suggesting that King and the MIA undertake a program of “constructive work,” which Gandhi considered crucial to a successful nonviolent campaign. King answered the letter on 1 May.2
Dear Dr. King:
Let me assure you and your associates of the moral support of not only myself but of many, many people not only here in New England but wherever the news of your protest against injustice has gone. It is support not only of your efforts to attain justice and sound human relations but also, and perhaps specially, of the method which you have chosen,—non-violent loving resistance.
Though you do not know me personally, let me introduce myself as the author of “The Power of Non-violence”, a copy of which, Glenn Smiley tells me, you have. For seven months of the four years I lived in India I was with Gandhi in his ashram, and I can tell you he would mightily rejoice to know you have chosen this way. As you know, the Negroes of the Gold Coast in Africa recently won their freedom by this method. Even though it may take several years and be experience in terms of suffering, the price is far less than when violence is used; the chances of success are greatly increased, and happy relations arising afterward between the contestants is a great future blessing. Though the unity of the human race may be denied by prejudice, pride or other mistakes, it is a spiritual, social, moral and biological fact upon which every man can bet his very life. If pressured with non-violent love persistently, it is a truth which will win. May God bless your efforts.
May I suggest that as a part of it you try to get going among your community some constructive work, after the fashion of Gandhi’s hand spinning. Offhand I would think some sort of campaign of clean-up, paint-up, tidy-up, creation of sanitation and good physical order might do. It would add to people’s self respect, increase their solidity, use their emotions and energy on permanent constructive self-help as well as the effort of protest. Choose active leaders, good organizers, people who can see the value of such a thing. In India it was the districts where much work went on constantly which offered the strongest, purest and most enduring non-violent resistance to the British rule.
God’s blessing on you and your efforts. Remember the 13th chapter of I Corinthians.
[signed] Richard B. Gregg
Don’t bother to answer this.
1. Richard Bartlett Gregg (1885-1974), born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, earned his B.A. (1907) and his law degree (1911) at Harvard University. Increasingly intrigued with nonviolent conflict resolution, Gregg left his job as a lawyer in 1925 to embark on a four-year sojourn in India that led to the publication of The Power of Nonviolence (1935). Gregg was an influential member of FOR.
2. See pp. 244-245 in this volume.
MLKP, MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University, Boston, Mass.