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From William Robert Miller

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Author: Miller, William Robert

Date: February 25, 1957

Location: Nyack, N.Y.

Genre: Letter

Topic: Civil Disobedience


Miller, editor of the Fellowship of Reconciliation's journal Fellowship, discusses the rivalry between Bayard Rustin and Glenn Smiley, both of whom had advised King during the Montgomery bus boycott. King replied on 23 April. 1

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King
309 South Jackson Street
Montgomery, Alabama

Dear Dr. King:

It has been many months since our last correspondence, and I have had to rely on Glenn Smiley and my friend Bayard Rustin to keep me informed.2 I thought it would not be amiss, however, for me to remind you that your work is never far from my thoughts. My excuse for writing is to send you the enclosed clipping from Stimme der Gemeinde, Martin Niemoller’s magazine, reporting the bombing of [Robert] Graetz’ and Aberder Gemeindenathy’s homes.3

A better reason for my writing, however, follows. I do not expect to remain much longer on the staff of the FOR, since commuting from my home in the city is such a nuisance. While I hope to be able to continue making a voluntary contribution to FOR work, on the same basis that I have been contributing to LIBERATION, I see the prospect of my having a lessened opportunity to aid your movement. 

If there is anything that I can do personally to give direct assistance to the movement you are leading, I hope you will tell me about it. The enclosed brochures are my own work of writing and design—if you ever have need for something of this sort to be issued by the Committee on Nonviolent Integration, &c, I’m sure I could find time to handle it for you.4

It is probably not for me to say this, but as a conscientious individual and aside from any organizational ties, I have been a little worried about the rivalry between Glenn Smiley and Bayard Rustin in their approach to you. It seems to me that both men can make a valuable contribution to your movement provided they do not operate at cross purposes to one another. I have spoken to both of them without result. I have the advantage of not having been involved in the past causes of this rivalry, but I am disadvantaged by not being closely committed to either side. Bayard is a brilliant organizer; Glenn is a tireless worker. My feeling is that Glenn could be most helpful to you in his work among white Southerners and in the Negro churches and colleges. At the same time, Bayard is an ace idea man, publicist and organizer. There ought to be a division of labor between them, and you are the only man who can effect it. This paragraph is in strictest confidence. Having talked to Bayard and Glenn already, I would not want them to feel that I had, so to speak, gone “over their heads.” The problem may already have occurred to you, or perhaps there really is no problem. In any case, I feel I have done my duty all around by bringing the matter to your notice, and I leave it to your judgment.5

I know you are extremely busy these days, but I hope I may sometime have the opportunity of meeting you. As I have said before, you will be most welcome at my home.* 

[signed] William Robert Miller

*552 Riverside Drive, NY 27, NY
UNiversity 5-2541 

1. See p. 181 in this volume. 

2. Miller and King had exchanged letters about King’s article for the May 1956 issue of Fellowship, which was based on Smiley’s interview with King (see King to Miller, 8 May 1956; Miller to King 18 May 1956; and “Walk for Freedom,” May 1956, in Papers 3:249, 262-263, and 277-280, respectively).

3. “Zum Rassenproblem in den USA,” Stimme der Gemeinde, 1 February 1957. German church leader Martin Niemoller spent much of World War II in Nazi concentration camps after organizing clerical opposition to Hitler. Following the war he became a prominent pacifist and later served as president of the World Council of Churches (1961-1968). 

4. The Committee for Nonviolent Integration was one of several New York-based groups that supported the Montgomery bus boycott and other southern desegregation efforts. For more details, see 142 Introduction in Papers 3:18-19, and James Peck to King, 1 June 1956, in Papers 3:288-289. 

5. King’s secretary wrote “Please!” in the margin next to this paragraph. 

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

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