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To William Michelson

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Author: King, Martin Luther, Jr.

Date: August 3, 1960

Location: Atlanta, Ga.?

Genre: Letter

Topic: Student movements


King thanks New York labor official William Michelson for his 22 July letter and financial contribution.1 On 18 July, King had wired Michelson and his union colleague Cleveland Robinson requesting help to cover legal costs and fines incurred by students and ministers working to end segregation in Alabama.2

Mr. William Michelson
Organization Director
District 65
Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union
13 Astor Place
New York 3, New York

Dear Mr. Michaelson:

This is to acknowledge receipt of your very kind letter of July 22, with the enclosed check of three thousand dollars ($3,000.00) for the southern struggle which we discussed by telephone.

It is difficult to express the depth of appreciation which we in the South so warmly feel for support of this kind. The students and I have in common not only the objectives we seek, but we have both tasted the fierce onslaughts of the official machinery of government here in the South. Thousands of students were subjected to brutality, arrests and jailings which they faced with quiety heroism. It is probably unnecessary to say more in their praise than that both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions knew they had to give recognition to these student actions and each convention advanced a considerable distance in its platform promises. In the attack on me, which was in reality an attack on all militant Negro leadership in the South, a significant victory was scored when the jury rendered a verdict of acquittal.3 None of these successes would have been possible had not devoted people like yourself and your associates organized support so promptly and so effectively.

I hope you will convey my deepest gratitude to all those who worked with you. Our fight continues and we here in the South are strengthened by the knowledge that your determination, like ours, will continue until democratic rights become a reality for every person in our land.

I will certainly look forward to hearing from you as soon as our good friend Cleveland Robinson returns.4Whatever additional {funds} you can send will be of tremendous help in the days ahead. I can never tire of saying that District 65 has proved to be one of the most invaluable friends for those of us who are struggling in the South to make Democracy and justice a reality.

Very sincerely yours,
Martin L. King, Jr.

1. William Michelson (1914-1989), born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, was an organizer and official of several New York unions, including the Storeworkers Union Local 2, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), and the United Store Workers Union. Michelson was elected a member of the New York City Central Labor Council's executive board in 1959 and received their Distinguished Service Award in 1962. A member of the Board of Trustees of New York City's Health and Hospitals Corporation, Michelson helped develop health care benefits for unionized workers.

2. King sent a similar telegram to UPWA international vice president Russell Lasley on 19 July.

3. See King, Statement on Perjury Acquittal, 28 May 1960, p. 462 in this volume.

4. In his 22 July letter, Michelson expressed certainty that upon the return of secretary-treasurer Robinson, the union's Negro Affairs Committee would arrange "to send some additional funds." Cleveland Robinson became secretary-treasurer of District 65, RWDSU in 1952. He was elected vice president of the Negro American Labor Council in 1960.

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

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