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Sworn Deposition on Station Incident

Author: 
King, Martin Luther, Jr.
Date: 
December 10, 1956
Location: 
Montgomery, Ala.
Genre: 
Letter
Topic: 
Martin Luther King, Jr. - Threats/attacks against

Details

King testifies under oath to a Montgomery County Court clerk about an 11 July confrontation with a Montgomery police officer at the railroad station. King, his wife, and their friend Robert Williams attempted to walk through the white waiting room to board a train for Nashville to attend a Race Relations Institute at Fisk University. King probably prepared this deposition in response to a request from Mobile attorney John L. LeFlore, who had informed NAACP staff and the U. S. Department of Justice about the incident. King, Sr., reported being similarly harassed on three different occasions at the Montgomery station, including once in September 1956 while traveling with King, Jr., Coretta Scott King, and the Abernathys. On this occasion police officers, who were apparently “stationed there to keep Negroes out of [the white] waiting room,” threatened to arrest the group for “disturbing the peace.”1

Before me the undersigned authority personally came and appeared, and being by me first duly sworn, deposes and says:

My name is Martin Luther King, Jr. I am a minister and I am a Pastor of The Dexter Avenue Baptist Church located at 454 Dexter Avenue, Montgomery, Alabama. I reside at 309 South Jackson Street, Montgomery, Alabama.

On July 11, 1956, I was leaving Montgomery for Nashville, Tennessee as an interstate passenger. I decided to board the train by way of the general waiting room. On entering the general waiting room a policeman stopped me at the door and stated that I couldn’t enter. I immediately told him that I was an interstate passenger, and on this basis had a right to enter the waiting room. He insisted that I go to the colored waiting room. I continued to insist that I could not in all good faith go to the colored waiting room waiting room since I was an interstate passenger. He held me for several moments arguing that the law of Alabama was totally against the policy of Negro interstate passengers using the so-called white waiting room. After five or ten minutes the time was drawing near for the train to leave. I told him that I could not leave and go to the colored waiting room and that I would just have to miss my train. At that time he said to me that he was going to take me through the waiting room, but if I ever came back again he was going to “let me have it.” At one point he became so violent that he said he wanted to “kill up a few niggers anyway.” Mr. Robert Williams, Professor of Music at The Alabama State College and my wife, Mrs. Coretta King, were with me at the time of this incident.

Signed by:

1. King, Sr., to J. E. Tilford, 9 October 1956. Maude Ballou sent the deposition to LeFlore on 10 December 1956. See also LeFlore to King, 19 November 1956; King to LeFlore, 24 November 1956; and Clarence Mitchell to Warren Olney III, 4 December 1956.

Source: 

MLKP, MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University, Boston, Mass.