Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Art, like love, speaks through and to the heart

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During the run-up to a benefit show at Carnegie Hall in January of 1961, civil rights activist Martin Luther King sent the following supportive letter of thanks to Sammy Davis, Jr., as a result of his active role in its preparations. At the time Davis was looking to star in an anticipated - but ultimately shelved - Broadway production of Oscar Brown's musical, Kicks & Co., and King was clearly excited by the prospect.

Transcript follows.





Transcript
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Ebenezer Baptist Church
407 Auburn Avenue, N. E.
Atlanta, Georgia

Murray 8-7263

December 20, 1960

Mr. Sammy Davis, Jr.
Sherry-Netherland Hotel
5th Avenue at 59th Street
New York 22, New York

Dear Sammy:

I have been meaning to write you for quite some time. A sojourn in jail and a trip to Nigeria among other tasks have kept be behind.

When I solicited your help for our struggle almost two months ago, I did not expect so creative and fulsome a response. All of us are inspired by your wonderful support and the Committee is busily engaged in the preparations for January 27th. I hope I can convey our appreciation to you with the warmth which we feel it.

In the midst of one of my usual crowded sojourns in New York, I had the opportunity to hear the play, "Kicks and Co." by Oscar Brown at the invitation of the Nemiroffs, at whose home I have previsouly been a guest. I learned of your interest in it and I am deeply pleased.

To my knowledge, rarely has there come upon the American scene a work which so perceptively mirrors the conflict of soul, the moral choices that confront our people, both Negro and white, in these fateful times. And yet a work which is at the same time, so light of touch, entertaining--and thereby all the more persuasive.

Art can move and alter people in subtle ways because, like love, it speaks through and to the heart. This young man's work will, in its own special way, affect the conscience of vast numbers with the moral force and vigor of our young people. And coming as it does from a source so eminently influential as yourself, it will be both an inspiration and a sustenance to us all.

In that context, let me share with you again my appreciation for the motives and the wisdom that have led you to it.

Very sincerely yours,

(Signed, 'Martin')

Martin Luther King, Jr.

MLK.m