Letter to AAUW from Coretta Scott King

Atlanta, Georgia
November 1, 1968

To the Members of AAUW:

I am deeply grateful to the American Association of University Women for establishing this scholarship fund…there is entirely too little research, writing and understanding of nonviolence, peace and Afro-American history.

For example, we as a nation are appallingly ignorant of the rich heritage of our Afro-American people. It is impossible to over-emphasize the importance of helping all Americans to become aware of this history and of comprehending the depth and seriousness of the true struggles committed against Afro-Americans. People must know our history. Knowledge, however painful, is necessary before we can have brotherhood and equality. Moreover, there are few studies and books yet to be found in Afro-American history. To the tributes of our people to learning, to the sciences, to art and music, to literature, and the growth and development of our nation, it is too little known. Special study of Afro-American history would enrich every individual scholarship winner, who in turn could give our nation a deeper, truer sense of its being. With this knowledge of our heritage and history, I am certain that these scholarships will produce some very gifted and distinguished scholars who will make original, invaluable contributions to education and to humanity.

Much the same is true in the case of the study of nonviolence and peace. In the Civil Rights Movement, we have tried by many innovative and peace-teaching and converting people to the philosophy and practice of nonviolence. It is necessary for the general understanding of nonviolence is quite small. Our nation’s knowledge is often misinterpreted. Distilling love for people is good and is working. In the true way of nonviolence, if more were taught about this in the coming years I feel that the history of this time could be altered. Only to the extent it is properly understood, with both the strength and conviction that love has to offer, that we will be able to gain respect, we will be able to lose the kind of continued despair…we understand and know each other and our own individual possibilities.

This study of nonviolence could be reduced to peace. Nothing is more timely than this need for peace and brotherhood. There is the matter of reducing international tensions. People must fully understand this philosophy of nonviolence. Once the techniques and tactics are fully explored and studied, our leaders could use this approach more fruitfully and widely. Therefore, these scholarships could be the vehicle for young people to discover new insights in this area.

Finally, there are so many ideas in the field of education yet to be found and these scholarship winners would be on the forefront of new discoveries, pushing back the frontiers of ignorance. More talented young men and women, who otherwise would not have a chance for college and university training, will be able to proceed in the study of these areas. This is the goal of the scholarships and this is the future we seek.

Therefore, the significance of this effort cannot be over emphasized. To search out the most gifted and talented young people for this opportunity could have the same effect that was previously mentioned. The overall, long-range effect will be world harmony. This is what we all seek. It will mean the creation of a society which will be free of the kind of pressures we now experience. It will be a better society for all of us. It will give these students a chance to make their contributions in the world, of which we can all be proud.

In expressing my sincere appreciation, I am thinking of all of those who will come after us to help build a better world for future generations. This is the kind of dedication and understanding my husband and I have so desperately yearned.

In sincere appreciation,

Coretta Scott King