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March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 1963

Jackson, Mahalia

As the “Queen of Gospel,” Mahalia Jackson sang all over the world, performing with the same passion at the presidential inauguration of John F. Kennedy that she exhibited when she sang at fundraising events for the African American freedom struggle. A great champion of the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King called her “a blessing to me… [and] a blessing to Negroes who have learned through [her] not to be ashamed of their heritage” (King, 10 January 1964).

Fauntroy, Walter E.

While attending Virginia Union University in 1953, Walter Fauntroy was asked by Wyatt Tee Walker to make a room available for Martin Luther King, who was traveling from Atlanta to Boston to attend graduate school. Several years after their meeting, Fauntroy recalled the “lasting effect” of King’s visit, particularly the impact of two sermons that King had shared with him. “When first I heard your name mentioned in connection with the Montgomery boycott, I thanked God that He had placed in that crisis the man with the message for our time,” Fauntroy wrote to King in June 1960 (Papers 5:470).

Farmer, James

As co-founder of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), James Farmer was one of the major leaders of the African American freedom struggle. In a 1997 interview, Farmer said: “I don’t see any future for the nation without integration. Our lives are intertwined, our work is intertwined, our education is intertwined” (Smith, “Civil Rights Leader”). Farmer credited Martin Luther King and the Montgomery bus boycott with educating the public on nonviolent tactics: “No longer did we have to explain nonviolence to people. Thanks to Martin Luther King, it was a household word” (Farmer, 188).

Bates, Daisy

Daisy Lee Gaston Bates, a civil rights advocate, newspaper publisher, and president of the Arkansas chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), advised the nine students who desegregated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. Martin Luther King offered encouragement to Bates during this period, telling her in a letter that she was “a woman whom everyone KNOWS has been, and still is in the thick of the battle from the very beginning, never faltering, never tiring” (Papers 4:446).

American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)

Following the 1955 merger of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), the AFL-CIO became an ally of civil rights organizations. Martin Luther King spoke of the shared goals of the civil rights and labor movements, noting in his 1961 address to the fourth AFL-CIO national convention that both African Americans and union members were fighting for “decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children, and respect in the community” (King, 11 December 1961).


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