When the FBI told MLK to kill himself (who are they targeting now?)

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2014/11/12/when-the-fbi-told-mlk-to-kill.html


Do we know if MLK ever actually read through to the threat part of that letter? I would have thought he’d have gotten a ton of that shit and archived it in the trash after two sentences.


“all of us Negroes”

Really? I guess this was supposedly written in the voice of a disaffected 1964 citizen, but it’s so stilted.


I can imagine the agents given this task rolling their eyes before wandering off to their office to spend the rest of the day having a laugh at the boss. “Sure thing Mister Hoover. You are the law and order genius after all.”

Oh, and we do have a Facebook full of lies about prominent Blacks. That is not speculation.


They got the tone all wrong, didn’t they? I don’t suppose any words would have done the job, but all that stress on “filthy immorality” doesn’t really resonate with Dr King’s message at all. In fact, it sounds to my non-expert ear like there’s a lot of white supremacist code words in there.


I had to look it up, but apparently MLK Jr. did indeed have extramarital affairs:

I’ve long seen right-wing email FWD’s on the topic (well… rather including that topic among a bunch of nonsense), but didn’t know the truth of it until just now, after seeing what the FBI wrote him.

It perhaps tarnishes the man, but not what he stood for, which is really the target of the aforementioned right-wing email FWD’s. Such is the way of most people who accomplish great things.

Why does a letter from the FBI to Martin Luther King read like the letter from a resentful, powerless and crazy person to whoever is calling in their loans?


Surveillance is about political power and control – then and now.


Makes me proud to be an American! NOT! It’s things like this that make me laugh when people say how things were better in the 50s and 60s. Yeah if you were white and middle class! Crime rates are down, teen pregnancies are down, more people live in democratic countries, and generally the world is less racist,homophobic, and sexist. We still have a long way to go , but there is no question we are more civilized society today, and tomorrow will be better. These are the good old days.


That’s pretty common knowledge thanks to the aforementioned FBI surveillance. The point is that they were monitoring his sex life at all, let alone trying to goad him into suicide over it. Especially considering that J. Edgar Hoover’s alleged sex life didn’t exactly pass social muster at the time either.


Why? Because it shows he was a human being, prone to not being perfect? At what point do people pushing against the system that oppresses them get to allowed to be human, meaning flawed, and still demand basic human rights? The politics of respectability can be such a trap…


I’m not sure why I’m supposed to believe this letter is from the FBI. Because you say so?

You could, you know, read the article boingboing linked to. That explains it.


I did read it. There’s no explanation as to how we know it’s from the FBI. If I’ve missed it I won’t be surprised, I believe I’m slightly dumb

Let’s keep in mind: The current director of the FBI gave a speech about a month ago that boils down to “You people have too much privacy. Since there are some bad people, you should give up all that privacy. Trust us.” And he said this completely seriously.

Honestly, I think I’m more afraid of the current attitude than the Hoover-era FBI, and that’s saying something.


Not retarded. The full, unredacted letter matches the unredacted parts of the censored versions available to the public. The EFF’s summary links to the original article at the New York Times, the provenance of this new unredacted copy is claimed to be from a reprocessed collection of Hoover’s documents that was found in the national archives in MD.

From the NYT

This summer, while researching a biography of Hoover, I was surprised to find a full, uncensored version of the letter tucked away in a reprocessed set of his [J. Edgar Hoover's] official and confidential files at the National Archives.

Also, from Findings on MLK Assassination at Archives.gov:

The nature of the Bureau's campaign against Dr. King is vividly illustrated by one incident. Shortly after Director Hoover's press conference in November 1964, in which he referred to Dr. King as the country's "most notorious liar," (50) a package was mailed to Dr. King. It contained an anonymous diatribe against the civil rights leader and a copy of an electronic surveillance tape, apparently to lend credence to threats of exposure of derogatory personal information made in the letter.

The surveillance tape referred to is known to be part of the FBI’s campaign against King. Either the FBI suddenly became a porous information sieve under perhaps the most paranoid director it’s ever had, or the FBI was the perpetrator.

Edited for clarity. I misread the article as saying the archived cache was of MLK’s documents, but upon re-reading I see now that the letter was found in a cache of Hoover’s documents, which is obviously much stronger evidence to show that it was the FBI that wrote the letter and sent it to MLK.


For more about the notorious letter, and other FBI abuses, see:

J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets by Curt Gentry.

Gentry was deeply, passionately appalled by the letter, COINTELPRO, and other affronts to civil rights.


We are more civilized socially, yes. Though unfortunately not politically, theologically nor economically.

But it was the lever they were trying to push, because MLK was making sure that their movement was respectable to the mainstream. For example, when they announced the bus strikes he had everyone wear their Sunday best clothes.

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Lately, every time I read an article about the abuses of the U.S. government, that brainless, pandering Lee Greenwood song comes to mind:

And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free…

Well, as long as I’m a rich, male W.A.S.P. who toes the party line and marches in lockstep with my neighbors.