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King, Martin Luther, Jr., (1929-1968)
Typed Letter Signed, Atlanta, January 14, 1965 to Dr. Vincenzo Lapiccirella, Florence, Italy

quarto, one page, typed, signed by King in blue ink, on the letterhead of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, with original mailing envelope. In very good, very clean and legible condition.

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Written to Dr. Vincenzo Lappiccirella, King regretfully declines an invitation for he and his wife to attend a conference on April 30 in Florence, Italy. King states that he had another engagement that day (see below).

       On April 30th King and SNCC's John Lewis announced that the two organizations, (SNCC and SCLC), would work cooperatively to implement programs designed to carry out a program of voter education and political organization across the South. This coordination followed up on the March 25th Selma to Montgomery March and was intended to create support for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, part of a consistent coordinated effort during the spring and summer of 1965 to push for passage of this crucial act.

On June 15, 1965, King addressed the opening orientation session for student volunteers in Atlanta's Summer Community Organization and Political Education (SCOPE) Project of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). King told the assembled volunteers: "This generation of students is found where history is being made."

SCOPE took place during the summer of 1965, growing out of SCLC's participation in the Voter Education Project, the momentum following the Selma to Montgomery March, and SCLC's desire to highlight the voter registration process for blacks while the Voting Rights Act was pending before Congress. SCOPE was also inspired by the 1964 Freedom Summer, a Council of Federated Organizations initiative that mobilized hundreds of white college students to work in the South against segregation and black disenfranchisement.

Despite promises that the Voting Rights Act would be enacted by June 1965, SCOPE began that summer as the bill wended its way through Congress. Its three objectives were local recruitment and community grass-roots organization, voter registration, and political education. Over 1200 SCOPE workers, including 650 college students from across the nation, 150 SCLC staff members, and 400 local volunteers, served in 6 southern states to register African Americans to vote.

The Voting Rights Act was sent to Congress by President Johnson on March 17, 1965. The bill passed the Senate on May 26, 1965 (after a successful cloture vote on March 23), by a vote of seventy-seven to nineteen. The House was slower to give its approval. After five weeks of debate, it was finally passed on July 9th. After differences between the two bills were resolved in conference, the House passed the Conference Report on August 3, the Senate on August 4th. On August 6, 1965, President Johnson signed the Act into law with Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and other civil rights leaders in attendance.

SCOPE ended three weeks after the Act became law, King declared that the project's goals had been achieved and projected success in SCLC's future registration programs.

Vincenzo Lappiccirella (Milan, May 28, 1907 - Rome, December 27, 1966) was a political and partisan Italian, member of the Resistance during World War II. After the war he became a professor of literature and continued a lifelong pursuit of social justice.