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Voter registration

"New Fields Await Negroes, King Tells Mass Meeting"

At 1:30 A.M. on 23 December King and his family were awakened by a shotgun blast shattering their front door, a harbinger of the violence that would plague Montgomery the following month. At Dexter's regular Sunday service that morning King “softly and without emotion” informed his congregation of the shooting, which injured no one and caused little damage. He told church members that he “would have liked to meet those who had done the shooting to tell them that surely they must know they could not solve problems that way.

Press Release, Announcement of the Crusade for Citizenship

SCLC members met at Mount Olive CME Cathedral in Memphis on 5 November to set plans for the Crusade for Citizenship. This statement, released during a press conference at the conclusion of the one-day meeting, reiterates their conviction that “until the Negro possesses the right to vote, America's economic, social and political institutions cannot be free to meet the full needs of the American people." 1


To Richard M. Nixon

On 30 August following a record-breaking filibuster by South Carolina senator Strom Thurmond, the Senate approved the country’s first major civil rights legislation since 1875.1 King advises Nixon that the Civil Rights Bill of 1957, which had been weakened by the Senate, “is far better than no bill at all,” and conveys his hope that the president would not veto it.2 Nixon replied on 17 September.

To Conrad J. Lynn

In March the Rockland County (New York) NAACP branch sent clothing and shoes to Cleveland, Mississippi, where Amzie Moore was leading a voter registration campaign.1 In a 31 July letter to King, Lynn, counsel to the Rockland branch, reported that the supplies were never collected from the depot and that registered letters to Moore's Farmers and Businessmen's Association had drawn no response.2 In the following letter King sugge

To Albert S. Bigelow

On 6 November Bigelow, a Quaker pacifist and former Massachusetts housing official, wrote of his plan to vote for King in the presidential election. “Your struggle & suffering are long and growing harder,” Bigelow added, “but please know that you have our love and admiration for your gallant, steadfast devotion to your high principles.” 1On 19 November King's secretary, Maude Ballou, thanked him for the letter.

From Warren Olney III

Two Department of Justice officials, Assistant Attorney General Olney of the Criminal Division and Arthur B. Caldwell, chief of the division's Civil Rights Section, respond to the 27 August letter from Montgomery bus boycott leaders to President Eisenhower.1

Reverend M. L. King, Jr., President
The Montgomery Improvement Association
530 South Union Street
Montgomery, Alabama

Dear Reverend King:

To Dwight D. Eisenhower

Two days after Montgomery minister and MIA executive board member Robert Graetz's home was bombed, King and other Montgomery black leaders initiated correspondence with the president, urging him to order an investigation of violence by white supremacists acting with the complicity of local public officials. Presidential assistant Maxwell M. Rabb acknowledged their letter on 25 October 1956; Department of Justice officials responded on 7 September.1

To Charles C. Diggs, Jr.

On 13 March, SCLC advisory board member and Michigan congressman Diggs sent King a telegram from his Washington office expressing disappointment at the low rate of African-American voter registration in the South.1 "Even in Montgomery," he noted, "Negro voter applicants have dropped below normal." He continued, "rallies and speeches are fine for inspirational purposes but a successful registration campaign demands skillful follow up in the field."


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