Sunday, February 28, 2016


JFK+50:  Volume 6, No. 1873


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) A letter was sent 55 years ago today, February 28, 1961, from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to President Kennedy's special assistant Frank D. Reeves*.

In the  letter, which was accompanied by copies of Dr. King's recent essay published in The Nation, the civil rights leader wrote...

"the powerful things that the President can do in civil rights are through executive orders" and "I know that President Kennedy has a marvelous opportunity and I believe in his good faith on the issue." 

Dr. King wrote annual essays for The Nation on the civil rights movement from 1961 through 1966.  In his 1965 essay, Dr. King wrote that the goal of achieving a consensus on civil rights had taken time to achieve.  He said...

"Past Presidents have often sought such a function.  President Kennedy promised an executive order banning discrimination in housing (but) he delayed execution of the order long after his election on the grounds that he awaited a 'national concensus.'"

President John F. Kennedy, however, followed King's advice and signed Executive Order #11063  on November 20, 1962.

The President stated...

"I hereby direct all departments and agencies in the executive branch of the Federal Government, insofar as their functions relate to the provision, rehabilitation, or operation of housing and related facilities, to take all action necessary and appropriate to prevent discrimination of race, color, creed or national origin."

This executive order prohibited discrimination in the sale, leasing or rental of federally owned or operated facilities, as well as those provided with federal funds.  The order also established a President's Commission on Equal Opportunity in Housing.

*Frank D. Reeves  (1916-1973) was born in Montreal and grew up in New York City.  He graduated from Howard University School of Law in 1939 & went to work for the NAACP.  FDR was the first African-American to sit on the District of Columbia Board of Commissioners and the first to serve on the Democratic National Committee.  

FDR served as an adviser on minority affairs for JFK's presidential campaign in 1960 before being appointed special assistant to the president.


"Frank D. Reeves, African American Heritage Trail," Cultural Tourism DC,

"John F. Kennedy and Executive Order 11063," Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement," November 2012,

"Martin Luther King, Jr., Let Justice Roll Down," February 7, 2002, The Nation,

JFK Meets Dr. King & Civil Rights Leaders
The Oval Office
JFK Library Image