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Letter From a Birmingham Jail: A conversation with Mrs. Willie Mackey King

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Join the NWHM at 3:00pm August 8th for a conversation with Mrs. Willie Mackey King about her role typing the "Letter From a Birmingham Jail"

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In April 1963, days after Martin Luther King, Jr. was jailed for public protests in Birmingham, Alabama, he began smuggling notes out of jail through his lawyers. The notes, which became the “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”, were written along newspaper edges, table napkins, toilet paper and whatever scraps of paper that Dr. King could find to write on. The job of deciphering King’s handwritten notes and transcribing them fell to Mrs. Willie Mackey King, a member of the executive staff for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference under the leadership of Dr. King.

Join the National Women’s History Museum on Sunday, August 8th at 3:00pm EDT as we welcome Mrs. King for a conversation moderated by Shelley Stokes-Hammond about this extraordinary moment in history and Mrs. King’s life of service and activism. Mrs. King will be available for Q&A following the program.

The National Women’s History Museum strives to provide programs that are accessible to all visitors. For questions, or to request accommodations such as an ASL interpreter or captioning, please email history@womenshistory.org at least 7 days in advance of the program.

About the Speakers:

Mrs. Willie Mackey King worked for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as part of the executive staff under the leadership of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from February 1962 - February 1966. She performed a variety of administrative duties and traveled with Dr. King. While in Birmingham, Alabama with Dr. King, she typed the famous Birmingham Jail Letter. She and Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker transcribed the Letter which was written on newspaper edges, table napkins, toilet paper and whatever scraps of paper that Dr. King could find to write on. Mrs. King is a member of the Montgomery Hills Baptist Church in Silver Spring, Maryland. She has served as Chairperson of the Board of Deacons, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees and is a teacher in the AGAPE Sunday School Class. Mrs. King studied at Dimery College, Georgia State University, University of Maryland, Montgomery College and LaSalle University. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management.

Shelley Stokes-Hammond is a writer, historian, and historic preservationist. She is also the daughter of former Congressman Louis Stokes, the first Black elected to Congress from the State of Ohio in 1968, and the niece of Carl B. Stokes, the first Black elected mayor of the eighth largest city in the United States, Cleveland, in 1967. During the Civil Rights Movement, the Stokes brothers had relationships with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Ms. Willie King.

Her thesis, Recognizing Ludlow: A National Treasure—a community that stood firm for equality highlights the history of the Ludlow Community of Cleveland and Shaker Heights, Ohio, as a model for integration. It also serves as a primary resource for considering the Ludlow neighborhood as one of ten sites for the African American Civil Rights Trail in Cleveland, the only such trail in the North.


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Organizer National Women's History Museum

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The National Women’s History Museum educates, inspires, empowers, and shapes the future by integrating women's distinctive history into the culture and history of the United States. NWHM is a nonpartisan, nonprofit educational institution dedicated to preserving, interpreting, and celebrating the diverse historic contributions of women, and integrating this rich heritage fully into our nation's history. NWHM is a 501(c)(3) organization. Learn more about us at www.womenshistory.org.

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