The Heroes of Our Time

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June, 1964. Marlon Brando sends a telegram to Martin Luther King and declines an offer to assist in a forthcoming demonstration due to ill-health and legal troubles.

Brando was an active supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, both vocally and financially, and in fact had been standing just "a few steps behind Dr. King when he gave his 'I Have a Dream' speech" in 1963. After his assassination in 1968, Brando took a break from the acting world in order to dedicate himself to King's work.

Transcript follows. Images courtesy of The Brilliance of Brando (Above), and Christie's (Below).



Transcript
WESTERN UNION
TELEGRAM

June 10, 1964

DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, C/O DR. HAYLING, 79 BRIDGE ST.,
ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA

DEAR DR. KING:

THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR CALLING. I RECENTLY RETURNED FROM THE HOSPITAL AFTER HAVING HAD AN ATTACK OF SEVERE BLEEDING FROM AN ULCER. I HAVE BEEN SUBJECT TO GREAT PERSONAL STRIFE IN MY OWN LIFE AND AM OBLIGED TO GO INTO COURT THURSDAY. I FEEL HONORED THAT YOU ASKED FOR WHAT ASSISTANCE I COULD GIVE. I CANNOT AT THIS TIME BE OF ASSISTANCE. IT DISTRESSES ME THAT I WILL NOT BE ABLE TO JOIN YOU. I FEEL THAT THOSE WHO TAKE ACTIVE PART IN DEMONSTRATIONS FOR EQUALITY AND FREEDOM ARE THE HEROES OF OUR TIME AND DESERVE NATIONAL HONOR AND ACCLAIM AND I REGARD IT AS AN HONORABLE DUTY TO PARTICIPATE. I WILL BE OUT OF THE COUNTRY HOPEFULLY BY FRIDAY BUT I WILL RETURN BY THE FIRST OF AUGUST AND AT THAT TIME I AM SURE I WILL BE ABLE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE ACTIVITIES OF LIBERATION. WITH GREAT RESPECT AND REGRET I AM SINCERELY YOURS.

MARLON BRANDO