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From T. J. Jemison

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Author: Jemison, T. J. (Theodore Judson)

Date: October 21, 1956

Location: Baton Rouge, La.

Genre: Letter

Topic: Montgomery Bus Boycott


Jemison, pastor of Mount Zion First Baptist Church in Baton Rouge and leader of a brief bus boycott in 1953, invites King to deliver his church’s annual Men's Day address.1 On 31 October King wrote agreeing to deliver the sermon on 18 November.

Dr. M. L. King, Jr., Pastor
Dexter Avenue Baptist Church 
308 South Jackson Street
Montgomery, Alabama

My dear Friend: 

After our conversation via of the telephone earlier this evening, I thought I would write and let you know just how important your coming to {us} would be.

First, our community like most other communities in United States want to see and hear you. It will be more than a church engagement, it will be a community one. 

Second, the people of Baton Rouge more than others could and would appreciate your coming because we too had a similar experience as to yours in Montgomery. Our refusal to ride lasted only eight days, therefore, we here know what you and your supporters have been through for almost a year.

Third, it would mean much to our local church program and development. We need the boost your coming would give. Please do all you can to help a friend out if you can. I feel that if you can, you will.

Will take care of your round-trip flight ticket, all other expenses and will give you a very nice honorarium.

Just as soon as you have made your decision, want you let me know, so that I may go forward with the good news of your coming.

With kind greetings to Mrs. King, and a prayer for your continued health and success, I am

Very sincerely yours,
T. J. Jemison

1. Theodore Judson Jemison (1919-) was general secretary of the National Baptist Convention and son of a past president of the organization. During the spring of 1953 Jemison and others had successfully petitioned the Baton Rouge City Council to desegregate the buses, but the state attorney general had ruled that the new city ordinance was in violation of state segregation laws. In June Jemison helped found the United Defense League to organize a bus boycott to protest the ruling. The eight-day boycott, featuring nightly mass meetings and a free car pool system, ended when the organizers accepted a compromise seating arrangement that allowed most of the seats to be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. On 8 December 1955, three days into the Montgomery boycott, King contacted Jemison for advice. He later expressed his appreciation for Jemison’s “painstaking description” of the car pools in Baton Rouge, calling his suggestions “invaluable” (Stride Toward Freedom, p. 75). 

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

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