A letter penned by Martin Luther King, Jr. 54 years ago is to go up for auction on Thursday (29May14).

The activist wrote the note to a "dear friend" in 1960, eight years before his assassination, expressing his concerns for his African-American civil rights organisation, Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

The five-page letter inside a notebook asks the friend for support with the movement.

A passage reads, "It is an appeal for your support for the southern freedom struggle. Therefore, I hope you will read every word of this letter with deep and sympathetic concern. In recent months, three developments have combined to create a civil rights crisis of historic depth and magnitude: First, southern Negro students launched a mass offensive that is cracking the walls of segregation...The success of this campaign would, we are convinced, be one of the most important steps for winning the Negroes' equal rights in America."

Bids for the item will begin at $250,000 (£156,000) when it goes up for sale online via California-based Nate D. Sanders.