Charles Marsh: "Abernathy took upon himself the task of recruiting the young preacher, and he worked his friend hard."

Charles Marsh: Sunday, December 4, 1955:  an above-the-fold article on the front page of the Montgomery Advertiser read, "Negro Groups Ready Boycott of City Lines."  The one-day boycott would be held the next day, on Monday, December 5, the article indicated. 

In fact there was only one group, but the team built around the likes of Parks, Nixon, and Robinson packed a hard punch.  Expecting that negotiations with city officials would follow the Monday boycott, the group of organizers put together a list of all the ministers who should be enlisted in the organization--ministers having the greater gifts of persuasion and negotiation, it was assumed.  Phone calls were made to influential churches with some success.  Ralph Abernathy, the exuberant pastor of the colored First Baptist Church, was especially interested in the plan.  However, Martin King let it be known that he had more pressing matters before him.  Aside from the dissertation, he felt pressed in by preparations for the church's annual planning conference, coming up in a couple of weeks.  He was expected to present his congregation with a detailed program for the year ahead, complete with a schedule of events and a new budget.(1)  King told Abernathy that organizers could use the meeting space in the bottom floor of the Dexter sanctuary.  "The people will be gone from the capital by nightfall," King said, "and the whole square will be lit up.  You can all gather in the basement."(2)  But King turned down the nomination to serve as president of the Montgomery Improvement Association (as the boycott organization would be called) when it unexpectedly came his way during the session.

The result was that Abernathy took upon himself the task of recruiting the young preacher, and he worked his friend hard.  On the Monday of the boycott, in an afternoon meeting of eighteen pastors at the Mount Zion AME Church, King accepted the nomination.  "If you think I can render some service, I will”, he said.  Still, King fully expected that the boycott to be resolved quickly and without much difficulty.(3)  "Negotiations between people of good will" will be resolved within a matter of days.(4)



(1) Ralph David Abernathy, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down (New York: Harper and Row, 1989), p. 136.

(2)  King cited in Abernathy, And The Walls Came Tumbling Down, p. 136.

(3)  King cited in Garrow, Bearing the Cross, p. 27.

(4)  King cited in Montgomery Advertiser, December 11, 1955.

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