Wilkins had notified King by telephone that the Spingarn Award Committee unanimously selected him to receive the NAACP's highest honor for his leadership of the Montgomery bus boycott.1 This letter arrived amidst news reports of conflict among black leaders involved in the Prayer Pilgrimage.2
Mr. Roy Wilkins
20 West Fortieth Street
New York, New York
This is just a note to acknowledge receipt of your very kind letter of May 28, informing me that the Spingarn Medal Award Committee has chosen me as the reciepient of the Forty-Second Spingarn Medal. Certainly I would accept this honor with profound humility and deep gratitude. It is my only hope that I will be able to live up to the sublime and noble principles inherent in such an award.
I am definitely planning to be in Detroit on the night of Friday, June 28, to receive the medal in person.3 Please feel free to contact me concerning further details.
Very sincerely yours,
[signed] M. L. King, Jr. / b
M. L. King, Jr.,
(Dictated by Rev. King, but transcribed and signed in his absence.)
1. In a subsequent letter Wilkins offered King his “hearty personal congratulations” and praised him for setting an example during the boycott that had “inspired every crusader for human decency” (Wilkins to King, 28 May 1957; see also NAACP, Replies received from Spingarn Medal award committee, 15 May 1957).
2. A 4 June letter from Wilkins to King characterized an article in the New York Amsterdam News as a “crude attempt to stir jealousy and rivalry.” The article accused Wilkins and Randolph of failing to “throw the full weight of their offices and their organizations completely behind” the Prayer Pilgrimage: “Many among that leadership did a good job of dragging their feet in the March on Washington with the direct hope that the March would fail, and that the threat of King’s leadership would thus die aborning” (James L. Hicks, “King Emerges As Top Negro Leader,” New York Amsterdam News, 1 June 1957). Prayer Pilgrimage organizers Kilgore, Baker, and Rustin responded to Hicks with a 4 June letter that praised the participation of the NAACP and the International Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.
3. See “Remarks in Acceptance of the Forty-second Spingarn Medal at the Forty-eighth Annual NAACP Convention,” 28 June 1957, pp. 228-233 in this volume.
NAACPP-DLC, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Papers, 1909-1955, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.