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FBI’s Obsession with MLK Paints Falsehoods about Civil Rights Leader

Atty. Gen. Robert Kennedy With Martin Luther King Jr. Photo via DOJ.

Atty. Gen. Robert Kennedy With Martin Luther King Jr. Photo via DOJ.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Just three weeks before the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, the FBI declared in a newly released analysis that the civil rights leader was “a whole-hearted” communist who had a series of affairs, including with folk singer Joan Baez

But historians quickly denounced the 20-page document, dated March 21, saying the FBI’s obsession with King resulted in numerous falsehoods that were later discounted.

The FBI report, which was among the 676 files that the National Archive released Friday, provide detail about one of King’s closest advisers, Stanley Levison, a New York lawyer and businessman who helped finance the Communist Party before meeting the civil rights leader in 1956.

martin luther king fbi documentThe document claimed King was heavily influenced by Levison.

“The course King chooses to follow at this critical time could have momentous impact on the future of race relations in the United States,” the document’s introduction reads. “And for that reason this paper has been prepared to give some insight into the nature of the man himself as well as the nature of his views, goals, objectives, tactics and the reasons therefor.”

But David Garrow, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian, dismissed the allegations as false, saying they are the result of then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s unhealthy, if not delusional, obsession with the civil rights leader. 

“The number one thing I’ve learned in 40 years of doing this, is just because you see it in a top-secret document, just because someone had said it to the FBI, doesn’t mean it’s all accurate,” Garrow told The Washington Post, citing the infamous dossier that contains salacious allegations against President Trump. 

Garrow pointed out that King had been under heavy FBI surveillance throughout the 1960s and never found evidence of communist connections.

If anything, the document, titled “MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., A CURRENT ANALYSIS,” provided more insight into the FBI’s preoccupation with the Communist Party and attempts to discredit King.

“I think the number one takeaway historically is how, even in March of 1968, the FBI continues to be bizarrely preoccupied with how important the Communist Party USA is. ... The Communist Party, by 1968, is of no importance to anything,” Garrow said. “These incredibly exaggerated statements of communist influence are exactly what the FBI wants to hear.”

What Hoover failed to pass on to President Lyndon B. Johnson was that King had distanced himself from communists.

“There are things I wanted to say renouncing communism in theory, but they would not go along with it. We wanted to say that it was an alien philosophy contrary to us, but they wouldn’t go along with it,” King told adviser Bayard Rustin in May 1965, when King, Garrow wrote.


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