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To Stanley D. Levison

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Author: King, Martin Luther Jr.

Date: December 15, 1958

Location: Montgomery, Ala.?

Genre: Letter

Topic: Martin Luther King, Jr. - Education

Martin Luther King, Jr. - Political and Social Views


On 11 December Levison wrote King explaining negotiations with Stride Toward Freedom publisher Harper & Brothers, which had sought to decrease King's royalties for books sold through distributor Maurice A. Lockhart.1

Mr. Stanley D. Levison 

Dear Stan:

Thank you for your detailed letter of December 11, which clears up several important matters for me. I cannot begin to thank you for negotiating with the publishers and thereby increasing my royalties on the Lockhart sales. I am signing the enclosed letter agreement and they may proceed immediately with the sales.

Enclosed you will find also the check in the amount of $155.76 which takes care of my account with you for books and mailing costs. If there are any additional bills, please feel free to contact me. By the way, I would suggest that you drop another note to Sandy Ray concerning his books. I am sure that his failure to respond to your first letter was just an oversight.2

Thank you very kindly for calling my attention to your overcoat. I must shamefully admit that I had forgotten all about it. My mind has been so crowded for the last several months that I often allow very important matters to pass out of my memory. Please accept my apology for failing to get this coat to you months ago. It is hanging up in my closet and I can assure you that it will be in the mail tomorrow.3

I hope things are going well with you generally. Thanks again for all of your cooperation and support. By the way, I sincerely feel that you should submit a bill to me for all of the things that you are doing to lessen my load and also to save me money. This should include your trip to Montgomery to prepare my income tax and all of the negotiations concerning the book. Please do not hesitate to do this, for after all, what you are doing for me requires a great deal of time and technical knowledge.4

Yours very truly, 


1. Levison suggested that the staff of the religious department was unused to negotiating with third parties: “They seldom if ever, have to deal with agents or lawyers, and since their writers are not people schooled in the subtle deceits and tricks of business, they are able to get away with anything. I pulled the rug out from under them when I discovered in reading the contract that the clause by which they had reduced your royalty to fourteen cents, did not actually apply to an arrangement of this type. They thought they had a free hand under that clause to make any deal without consent from you, but they were stretching the interpretation beyond any reasonable basis.”

2. In his 11 December letter Levison detailed the cost of books he had purchased and mailed, for which he had not been reimbursed. He also mentioned that New York pastor Sandy Ray owed him money for two hundred copies of Stride.

3. Levison had previously asked if King still had an overcoat he had lent him two years ago, but said “please don’t take it off anyone’s back, including your own, but if it’s only keeping a hanger warm in your closet, I’ll find use for it” (Levison to King, 11 December 1958).

4. In an 8 January 1959 reply, Levison declined King’s offer of pay: “The liberation struggle is the most positive and rewarding area of work anyone could experience. . . . that is payment enough for me and very seriously I am indebted to you, not you to me.”

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

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