Writing to Sammy Davis, Jr., Dr. King prepares for the SCLC's Carnegie Hall benefit and praises a new musical: “which so perceptively mirrors the conflict of the soul, the moral choices that confront our people, both Negro and white, in these fateful times”
TLS signed “Martin,” two pages, 7 x 10.5, personal letterhead, December 20, 1960. Letter to entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr., in full: "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 me 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 previously been as 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 the 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, the Broadway theatre and an actor of such stature 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." Nicely mounted, matted, and framed with a limited edition photograph of King and Davis together (numbered 21/100) to an overall size of 21 x 27. In fine condition, with a light crease, and staple holes, to the upper left corner.
On October 25, 1960, after a judge ruled that his participation in an Atlanta sit-in demonstration was a violation of his suspended sentence from a previous traffic violation, Martin Luther King was ordered to serve four months in prison. He was released two days later in great part due to heavy pressure from the Kennedys, who publicly protested his jailing (incidentally helping JFK secure the black vote and, in turn, election as president). Having reached out to Davis prior to his arrest for his support, King thanks the crooner for his "creative and fulsome response." Along with the rest of the Rat Pack, Davis agreed to perform at Carnegie Hall in a January 27th benefit show honoring King, with the proceeds going to the Southern Leadership Conference 'in its fight for desegregation.'
With an additional gushing review of the musical 'Kicks & Co.,' co-produced by Robert Barron Nemiroff, King shows his deep respect for the power of artistic work, which can affect "the conscience of vast numbers with the moral force and vigor of our young people." In January 1961, Nemiroff reported to King that Davis would most likely be unable to star in the anticipated Broadway production of the play; it opened in Chicago in 1961 and never ultimately appeared on Broadway. An absolutely remarkable letter from one legend to another, uniting King's fight for desegregation with Davis's passionate use of his popularity to draw attention to such a worthy cause.