MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.
(1929-1968) Clergyman and civil rights leader who advocated nonviolent but active and massive confrontation in order to obtain rights for blacks. An impressive and unusual association piece, King's book, Stride Toward Freedom (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1958) 230 pp. 8vo., bound in blue cloth with black titled spine and original dust jacket. Boldly signed and inscribed by King on the front flyleaf: "To: Honorable Adlai E. Stevenson in appreciation for your genuine good will, your great statesmanlike vision, and your broad humanitarian concern. With warm Regards Martin L. King Jr." Stevenson has added his ownership stamp at the top of the page. A remarkable association piece inscribed to the Democratic powerbroker. Stevenson, politically a centrist in the Democratic Party, had some early and strong civil rights credentials. As an assistant to Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, he encouraged efforts to integrate naval units and to allow blacks the opportunity to become officers. At the 1948 Democratic National Convention, he voted against seating the Mississippi delegation that had excluded blacks from the selection process. Elected Governor of Illinois in 1948, Stevenson took the bold step of desegregating the Illinois National Guard. However, when Stevenson sought the Presidency in 1952 and 1956, his stance on the issue softened substantially. Winning the Democratic nomination in those years required the support of the conservative southern wing of the party which severely constrained what Stevenson could say and do in support of the Civil Rights movement. Stevenson biographer Porter McKeever summed up the problem succinctly: "Accused by northern liberals of pandering to southern white voters, and by southerners as being captive of liberals and blacks, he left both unhappy by refusing to take positions that would satisfy either."(Porter, Adlai Stevenson His Life and Legacy, 1989, p. 364) King likely appreciated these political concerns and did not hold it against him, instead recalling his earlier actions and principled and even-handed statements on the issue. One of Stevenson's chief concerns was how embarrassing Southern segregation appeared in the context of the Cold War. How could the United States hope to spread freedom and democracy when it couldn't even guarantee basic civil rights to a significant portion of its own population. When asked about the lunch counter sit-ins, Stevenson puzzled over why southerners appeared to have "no objection to eating a sandwich alongside of a Negro, if you are standing up, but that if your are sitting down, it is intolerable. I would have to say that seems to me silly... I think these demonstrations are a reminder that our Negro citizens resent this humiliation." (John Bartlow Martin, Adlai Stevenson and the World , 1977, p. 492). Offered together with a T.L.S. of ADLAI STEVENSON, 1p. 8vo., Chicago, Aug. 23, 1956 to a supporter: "Before Estes [Kefauver] and I leave on our first campaign trip, I want to know how deeply grateful I am to you..." Fine condition.