"We can't answer King's assassination with violence. That would be the worst tribute we could pay him."
Sammy Davis Jr.
Above: Backstage at New York's Majestic Theatre, 1965, by Dave Pickoff
On 20 December 1960, Martin Luther King wrote a letter to Sammy Davis, Jr. thanking him for his "wonderful support" of the upcoming 27 January 1961 Carnegie hall "Tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr."
Mr. Sammy Davis, Jr.
5th Avenue at 59th Street
New York 2 2, New York
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 forJanuary 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 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
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.
Very sincerely yours,
Martin Luther King, Jr.
"The civil rights movement wasn't easy for anybody."
Sammy Davis Jr.
Original caption, photograph above: 28 May 1963, Los Angeles - Entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. strikes a Napoleonic pose on the speakers platform at Wrigley Field during a freedom meeting. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King told the gathering “we want to be free whether we’re in Birmingham or Los Angeles.” Some 35,000 persons attended the meeting.
August 1963: Sammy Davis Jr. and other Hollywood stars at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, one of the largest political rallies where Martin Luther King, Jr. held his speech "I Have a Dream".
Photograph by Spider Martin: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King at a Sammy Davis, Jr. concert.
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