The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and one of the most prominent Negro leaders in the civil rights field, expressed his “dismay and disappointment” over the recent wrecking and looting by Negroes of Jewish stores in New York and Rochester.
In a statement to The Southern Israelite here, he pledged “solemnly” to do his utmost “to uphold the fair name of the Jews.” Commenting on Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports published in the English-Jewish newspaper, about the havoc wrought during Negro rioting in neighborhoods where the shopkeepers were largely Jewish, the Rev. King stated:
“While the outbursts in New York City and Rochester cannot be considered expressions of anti-Semitism, I am particularly pained to learn that a large percentage of the looted stores were owned by our Jewish friends since, as a group, the Jewish citizens of the United States have always stood for freedom, justice, and an end to bigotry. Our Jewish friends have demonstrated their commitment to the principle of tolerance and brotherhood in tangible ways, often at great personal sacrifices.
“Can we ever express our appreciation to the rabbis who chose to give moral witness with us in St. Augustine during our recent protest against segregation in that unhappy city? And who will ever forget the sacrifice of two Jewish lives, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, in Mississippi this past June? It would be impossible to record the contribution that the Jewish people have made toward the Negro’s struggle for freedom–it has been so great.
“I solemnly pledge to do my utmost to uphold the fair name of the Jews. Not only because we need their friendship, and surely we do, but mainly because bigotry in any form is an affront to us all.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.