Martin King

Martin Luther King handwritten letter while in India, researching Gandhi's methods of nonviolent resistance

Martin Luther King handwritten letter while in India, researching Gandhi's methods of nonviolent resistance

Martin Luther King, Jr., Autograph Letter Signed "Martin", Eight pages, 6.5" x 8", on six sheets, Residency Guest House letterhead, Bangalore [India, n. d. [circa February 1959. 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 Dr. 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. Usual folds, else fine.



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 Dr. J. T. Brooks, the president of Alabama State College and editor of the Dexter Echo and inform him that Dr. King has 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 also asks that he add Michigan Governor G. Mennen Williams and Averell Harriman, former governor of New York, 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 Dr. 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.



Reference: 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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