Few people in history have been as dedicated to civil rights as Dr.
King. In an interview with Playboy magazine, he noted that he worked 20
hours a day, traveled 325,000 miles a year, giving 450 speeches. That
grueling schedule alone was enough to take a toll on Dr. King and his
family life. But more mentally and physically taxing was a vicious,
unrelenting stealth campaign by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to harass
Hoover suspected that Stanley Levison, a King adviser, had Communist ties, and used that as a pretext for smearing Dr. King.
in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Bearing the Cross,” David J.
Garrow noted: “FBI officials focused upon Levison’s ongoing involvement
with King’s and SCLC’s affairs, and in early October renewed their
entreaties to Robert Kennedy about the serious security threat
represented by Levison’s role and King’s refusal to sever the
relationship. Their warnings received a sympathetic hearing by the
attorney general and Robert Kennedy felt compelled to take the step
that the FBI had been recommending since midsummer: the wiretapping of
King’s home and office in Atlanta.”
Garrow wrote, “Ever since the
wiretaps on King’s own home and office were added in November, the
supervisors of the King-Levison investigation had been turning their
attention more and more to King’s private life and away from their
previous fixation on hid supposed Communist ties.
mid-December conference, Bureau officials discussed in detail how they
could gather further evidence of what they felt were King’s serious
personal and moral shortcomings, and had resolved that if they could,
they would use such material to expose King ‘as an immoral opportunist’
and ‘clerical fraud.’”
In “At Cannan’s Edge,” the last of his
trilogy on the civil rights movement, Taylor Branch recounts how the
FBI used former Massachusetts Sen. Leverett Saltonstall to prevent King
from receiving an honorary degree from Springfield College, derailed an
effort by King to obtain a loan for SCLC from labor leader Jimmy Hoffa
and, even more troubling , decided not to inform King of imminent
threats on his life.
“Hoover revised internal communications
about the latest threats to kill King if he marched on Tuesday in Selma
– one via the Secret Service about two alleged gunmen out of Detroit,
another about a killing squad from the Coushatta, Louisiana, Ku Klux
Klan – and vetoed plans to give a routine warning to King,” wrote
Branch, who won the Pulitzer Prize for “Parting the Waters,” his first
civil rights book.
The author continued, “’No,’ Hoover scrawled
on one memo, and on another ordered agents ‘not to tell King anything.’
He reminded top officials of a previous order to exclude King from the
standard advisory to the targets of threats, and explicitly confined
FBI notice to Sheriff Clark and other local authorities of dubious
Hoover detested King and resented King’s
suggestion that the FBI did not aggressively investigate the murderers
of civil rights activists. Hoover would later describe King as the “the
most notorious liar" in America.
Branch writes, “…Richard
Harwood disclosed in the Washington Post that FBI officials had offered
to reporters tape-recorded evidence of ‘moral turpitude’ on King’s
part. No other news outlet would touch the cryptic revelation, which
Harwood buried among equally sensitive suggestions that Hoover had
become a pampered tyrant with homosexual leanings.”
Perhaps the most disgusting act in a series of disgusting acts, the FBI tried to get Dr. King to commit suicide.
An anonymous threatening letter and copy of tape recordings were mailed to King at his SCLC office in Atlanta.
is but one way out for you,” the letter said. “You better take it
before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation.”
Garrow writes, “King and his aides had little doubt about the origin of
the package: J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. The material on the tape – dirty
jokes and bawdy remarks King had made a year earlier at Washington’s
Willard Hotel, plus the sounds of people engaging in sex – had
obviously been acquired by bugging King’s hotel rooms.”
Garrow recalls a conversation between King, his wife, Coretta, and activist Dorothy Cotton.
at first, Martin suddenly spoke up, his wife remembered. ‘I’ve told you
all that I don’t expect to survive this revolution; this society is too
sick.’ And of course Dorothy said, ‘Oh, Martin, don’t say that.’ And he
said, ‘Well, I’m just being realistic.’ Coretta recalled that she ‘had
heard him say it several times before…He had an awareness of what could
happen to him, and he …was not able to forget about it because he lived
with this constantly.”
Dr. King also lived with the constant harassment of his own government.
Judge Alito's Civil Wrongs Record
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