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Tag: j edgar hoover fbi

That Time the FBI Urged Martin Luther King Jr. to Kill Himself

Martin Luther King Jr.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968. 

When Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for nonviolent resistance in October 1964, the FBI was furious. 

Under the leadership of the bureau’s notorious director, J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI had spent nearly a decade keeping the civil rights leader under surveillance, convinced he was a Communist – or at least a national security threat. Agents recorded thousands of memos on the minister’s movements and interactions and even bugged his home, office and hotel rooms.

But they found nothing illegal or even dangerous.

Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover

Infamously obstinate and relentless, Hoover was determined to discredit the 35-year-old leader, especially after he won the Nobel Peace Prize and earned international acclaim.

While King prepared for his trip to Oslo to receive the award, Hoover denounced the Georgia-born minister as “the most notorious liar in the country” during a press conference in Washington D.C. in November 1964.

A few days later, the smear campaign escalated, marking one of the darkest chapter’s in the FBI’s history. One of Hoover’s deputies, William Sullivan, typed an anonymous, harshly worded letter to King that later would come to be known as the “suicide letter.”

Since Sullivan had nothing illegal on King, the letter focused on his extramarital sexual liaisons, which were captured on FBI surveillance. 

The anonymous author calls King a “filthy, abnormal animal”and an “evil, abnormal beast” and pledges to expose the extramarital affairs “with your filthy, dirty, evil companions.”

The letter suggests there are recordings of “all your dirt, filth, evil and moronic talk.”

“You are done,” the letter declares. “Your ‘honorary degrees,’ your Nobel Prize (what a grim farce) and other awards will not save you. King, I repeat you are done.”

The letter is crafted to give the impression it was written by someone within the civil rights movement, making a reference to “us Negroes.”

King quietly told friends that someone wanted him to kill himself.

The letter proceeds in what is an apparent reference to suicide, “King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. … There is but only one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation.”

King wasn’t fooled by the misdirected writing. He was certain the FBI had written it, the New York Times reported. 

King’s suspicious were confirmed by the Senate’s Church Committee in 1975.

“Rather than trying to discredit the alleged Communists it believed were attempting to influence Dr. King, the Bureau adopted a curious tactic of trying to discredit the supposed target of Communist Party interest — Dr. King himself,” the committee concluded in a report.

King was killed by a sniper in 1968.