David Williams asks MLK to Visit Community Center

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Abstract

David A. Williams writes to Dr.King asking him to visit the local community center while on his trip to speak at the college in Manhattan, Kansas. He explains some of the trouble the local community is facing, such as a proposed highway that would disrupt his neighborhood and community center, as well as housing discrimination.

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David Williams asks MLK to Visit Community Center
Friday, January 12, 1968
Transcripts & Translations
English

Transcript

[Page 1] The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Southern Christian Leadership Conference Atlanta, Georgia January 12, 1968 [Stamp in Blue Ink: Received JAN[uary] 15 1968] My letter to you begins with no salutation. I do not really know how to greet you; we are strangers. And it is to [too] easy to begin with "Dear" or "Sir" but not necessarily so honest. And My hand cannot be like a fine camera, isolating an exact description. I can only attempt to sketch for you a picture of this city (where you expect to address the Kansas State University student body) and await your decision on my request: that sometime following your address you journey around the "foot" and to a building called Douglass Community Center and spend as much time as you will being with some needing people. Needing people because: - the center suffers yet from its historical origins (last year a director could not be secured because of opposition to paying a brown or black American $8500.00 a year) - from time to time (for several years) there has been talk within the local structure of running part of a proposed highway down the main street of the "foot," on which sits the Douglass [Crossed Out: Community] Center. - Urban Renewal funds are being sought and the present city commission is seriously considering remodeling a shopping center (near the university) which last year grossed over seven million dollars in retail business. - a local black businessman could not move into a home of his means and choice without great difficulty. It took him nearly five years and an out of town bank. - several young people cannot graduate from the process and "do" jobs (some of us have not been wearing our hair as long as long [sic] as [Bayard?] Rustin only because we are younger). - the city commission may soon pass an open housing bill in order to smokescreen activities concerning Urban Renewal Funds. [Page 2] there is one local newspaper and one radio station owned by one right family. - only some have has the opportunity, at the homes of professors, to talk with some of the visiting speakers It is the last that strikes me. Surely, I benefited by listening to and talking with those who did take the time to sit in a smaller circle or walk down an unlit street. But they talked mostly with "gown" and not "town." And mostly, they were committed to intestinal situations and not concerned with gut issues. And reflecting upon them, not one (after having first journeyed to the "foot") could have by presence alone excited dormant hope. I believe that by presence alone you can, and I believe by a handshake, a hello, and a question you can light some small spark. I request your presence because as a private person I have seen other speakers come and go with their elsewhere commitments, brief luncheons, and short question and [Crossed Out: answer] response periods. I wish someone would stop and really see and feel one needing handful of people. By way of background and self introduction about this stranger I add that I am least interested in political windfall. I remain a private person who has written this letter, having discussed it with few confidante[s]. Further, I have been a student at the university but I am not now. I am writing something longer than a short story, yet I do not consider myself a writer. And that brings me to this. If I would want anything; it would be, as a writer, to talk with you of a line from [Pastunak's?] Doctor [MS: illegible], "Revolution...it turns out that those who (inspire it) aren't at home in anything else except change and turmoil." and of the words brown or black American and the word Negro. [Page 3] This is what I would like to do. Perhaps in another time and in another place when you have more time and I am a writer we can. For now I would be momentarily content to be able to register the excitment [excitement] of an upturned heart and proud dark faces in a small backright town called Manhattan, Kansas. Signed, [Closing Signature: David A. Williams]
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