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From Vernon Johns

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Author: Johns, Vernon (Virginia State College)

Date: May 8, 1960

Location: Petersburg, Va.

Genre: Letter

Topic: Martin Luther King, Jr. - Career in Ministry


King's predecessor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church requests support for his business cooperative, Farm and City Enterprises, and asks for assistance in arranging speaking engagements.1

{Written in a crowd, would [re?]copy—but difficulty in reading may make you reflect on it!}

Good Doctor—

If you could see what I have done with a dozen or more swank audiences over the US that tried to get you and couldnt—you would start referring them to me when you couldn't accept. Maybe not. It takes a mighty big man to enjoy hearing an audience say how glad it is the invited speaker couldn't get there! You will take this of course with a pound of salt!

I am going to Montgomery May 22 to preach at Dexter. My real mission concerns Farm & City. M.I.A has several thousand invested in F&C.2 Not the least reason for non profit!!! By way of argument I want you to remember they may made 600% 300% on the land I bought on the Atlanta highway!

It is just as clear to me how the rest of it can be profitable as it was how that was highway investment could be possible profitable—They have one of the finest walk in meat boxes in the country with not even a pig foot in it.

I want to increase the capital a little to enable them to take cows and hogs right from the pasture and pen as you see them in this picture and transfer them to the meat boxes. [The pictures are from my farm]3 This with buying at the sources {SOURCES} of commodities instead of a shirt tail full in town will do the rest.

I am concentrating my engagements along the Route from here to Birmingham and New Orleans—into to in order to be there Montgomery often enough to keep in touch. Would appreciate—if you and Wyatt Tee [Walker] would plug me in for an engagement as often as your Movement could stand a top flight speaker without too much deflection!


Would you ask Abernathy to let me address the MIA the night after I am at Dexter—on—Economics For Freedom

—I really believe there is the opportunity here with your patronage to recreate both Farm & City and the Montgomery movement. Please do me the honor of a reply to this letter which is much more important than it will appear unless you can find time for a little reflection on it!

Yours Faithfully
[signed] Vernon Johns

Will be down for the Baccalaute of Atlanta U.4 Hope to see you going or coming.

1. Johns also sent a statement by several of the board members of the Virginia Farm and City Enterprises detailing incidents of alleged mismanagement at the company and appended at the top a note: "I am enclosing this in case some religious SOB around Norfolk has 'informed' you" (F. J. Boddie et al., "Resume, Facts and events pursuant to present condition of Virginia Farm and City Enterprises," July 1959).

2. The MIA invested $11,000 in Montgomery Farm and City Enterprises (see King, Address at the Fourth Annual Institute on Nonviolence and Social Change at Bethel Baptist Church, 3 December 1959, p. 334 in this volume).

3. Johns enclosed a printed sermon ornamented with photos of livestock (Johns, "Children, Have Ye Any Meat?" 8 May 1960).

4. Johns delivered the baccalaureate sermon at Atlanta University on 29 May 1960.

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

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