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Martin Luther King, Jr. Prepares His Return from India After Paying Tribute to Gandhian Non Violent Methods
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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. Autograph Letter Signed, to Maude L. Ballou. Bangalore [India], n. d. [circa February 1959]. 8 pp., 6½ x 8 in. On Residency Guest House letterhead.

Inventory #23298       Price: $50,000

Complete Transcript

Dear Maude

            As it stands now  we will be arriving in New York on Wednesday morning, March 18 at 6:45. This is a change from the original schedulte. Actually it is three days earlier. I will probably spend Wed., Thurs., and Friday in New York, and arrive in Montgomery <2> Saturday afternoon, March 21. Please do not let any of my members know that I am getting in at that time, because I do not plan to preach on Sunday, March 22. I might decide to slip in Church that Sunday without them knowing it.

            There are a few things that I would like for you to get to Dr. J.T. Brooks for the Dexter Echo. (1) Tell him that I have <3> accepted the position of one of the Editors-at-Large of the “Christian Century. You may mention that this is the most influentian [sic] and widely read interdenominational Protestant journals in America. (2) Mention that my book, Stride Toward Freedom has just been selected by the American Library Association for the list of 50 notable books of the year. Also mention that the book is still selling unusually well. <4> Tell Ralph to be sure to stay behind Hubbard for the meetings of the hospital committee. Also tell him to add the names of Governor G. Mennen Williams and former Governor Averill Harriman to the loist of requested contributors for the SCLC.

            Write Rev. Tilley a note and tell him to continue to discuss the conference on non-violence with Glen Smiley, but not to make any final plans on contacts until I return. Also tell him to begin making contacts for <5> the meeting of the conference in Tallahase [sic] Florida. Tell him to make the dates of the meeting Wed. & Thurs., May 13 & 14. The schedule should be as follows:

            Wed. morning—Board meeting

            Wed afternoon—Opening of Conference. and workshops

            Wed Evening—Mass meeting

            Thurs Morning—Workshop & business session

            Thurs Afternoon—Workshop, summary and closing.

Tell him to write as many of the ministers and civil leaders of Florida as possible, inviting them to the meeting. <6>

            I will probably be leaving Delhi for Karachi, Pakistan and the Middle East by the time you receive this letter. We leave on Tues., March 10. I would suggest that you send me a letter reviewing the correspondence and giving other necessary information the same day you receive this one. Send it to Jerusalem Air Mail Special, YMCA Hotel. The revised schedule calls for our being in Jerusalem on March 12, 13, 14, and 15. We will be in Cairo Egypt on the 16th and Athens Greece on the morning of the 17th. We will leave Athens for New York of the afternoon of the 17th.

            I hope all is well with you. Give my regards to Lenny and all of the Ballou over <7> chain. Coretta and Reddick are doing fine and send their regards. We are having a wonderful time. The people, from governmental officials on down, have lavished us with hospitality.

            Give my best regards to Lillie Tell her to compile all of the material for the quarterly financial report, but to hold it out for me to review before releasing it. Tell her that I will go over it on Monday March 23 and we will have it ready to distribute on Easter Sunday.

            Well I will close. I hope you two little sweet Tilley sisters have not been too much like your <8> father since I have been away. I will call you about noon on the day we arrive in New York—Wed. March 18th.



P.S. Tell Ralph to be sure to urge Ella Baker to continue collecting for the book, This will help our funds.

Historical Background

Martin Luther King, Jr., held firmly to the Gandhian principles of nonviolent resistance throughout his life. Gandhi used nonviolent resistance to gain India's independence from the British Empire. In an effort to expand his understanding of Gandhi and his methods, King left, with wife, Coretta, and Lawrence Reddick, historian, chairman of the history department at Alabama State College, and King's biographer, by his side on a five week tour of India on February 3, 1959.

Writing to friend and personal secretary, Maude L. Ballou, King, nearing the end of his stay in India, updates her on his plans for his return to the States. He says that their schedule has changed and they will be returning to New York earlier than planned, three days in fact. He says that he plans on spending those three days in New York and will arrive back in Montgomery on the following Saturday. Having no plans to preach the following day, he asks that she keep their arrival quiet, saying that he may make a surprise appearance at church.

Despite a month long absence overseas, King was still involved in his affairs back home. He asks that she get in touch with J. T. Brooks, the president of Alabama State College and editor of the Dexter Echo and inform him that King had taken a position as an editor with the Christian Century, a widely read Protestant journal. He also asks that she mention his newest book, Stride Toward Freedom, was selected as one of the fifty most notable books for the year by the American Library Association. He then requests that she add Michigan Governor G. Mennen Williams andformer governor of New York Averell Harriman to a list of potential contributors to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In addition, he asks that she write a short note to John Lee Tilley, executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, asking that he continue discussions with Glenn E. Smiley, a white civil rights activist who was an early adviser of King in the principles of nonviolence, regarding a potential conference in Tallahassee, Florida, inviting as many of Florida’s civic leaders and ministers as he can.

Regarding the remainder of his overseas trip, he says that he will soon be leaving for the Middle East via Pakistan and suggests that Mrs. Ballou mail him a letter (to the YMCA Hotel in Jerusalem) updating him on additional events. He informs her that they will be leaving Israel sometime in mid-March for Cairo, and from there to Athens, Greece, and finally New York City. He admits that they have had a wonderful time and the people of India have gone above and beyond to make them feel welcome.

King’s trip to India helped cement his beliefs in the principles of nonviolence. On his final day in India, March 9, 1959, he expressed his feelings in a message that was broadcast on All India Radio where he said that because of his time in India, he is more committed to the principles of nonviolent resistance than ever before.




Michael Battle. Blessed are the Peacemakers: A Christian Spirituality of Nonviolence. Mercer University Press, 2004

Clayborne Carson, editor. The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr: Threshold of a New Decade, January 1959-December 1960. University of California Press, 2005.

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