Attempted Destruction of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Legacy

By Randall Hill

There appears to be a concerted effort to destroy the reputations and images of Black men. Not even the dead are immune. Fifty-one years after his death, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is the latest target; allegations of rape and participation in orgies have surfaced.  

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FBI's History of Targeting Black Activism

From the 1910s to the 1970s, the FBI treated civil rights activists in general, and African American activists in particular, as either disloyal “subversives” or “dupes” of foreign agents. The FBI’s predecessor, the Bureau of Investigation, sought to “compel black loyalty” during World War I and investigate “negro radicalism” in the 1920s.

FBI records show between 1956 and 1971 a covert and at times illegal program, COINTELPRO, targeted black leaders and civil rights organizations with the stated purpose of surveilling, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting their activities. The FBI file on my uncle Dick Gregory contains over 3,700 pages.

Two days after Dr. King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington,  William Sullivan, the FBI’s director of intelligence, famously responded by writing, “We must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this Nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro and national security.” In late August 1963, FBI leaders met to discuss ways of “neutralizing King". 

COINTELPRO tactics are still used to this day, and have been alleged to include discrediting targets through psychological warfare; smearing individuals and groups using forged documents and by planting false reports in the media; harassment; wrongful imprisonment; and illegal violence, including assassination.

The FBI sent a secret memo in August 2017 to alert 18,000 law enforcement agencies that people involved in the black lives matter and similar movements could be "black identity extremism” an inflammatory term for a group that doesn’t even exist to discredit and criminalize black people protesting against police brutality and killings by labeling them as terrorists.

Sexual Allegations 

In an 8,000-word article published in the British periodical Standpoint Magazine on May 30, David Garrow details the contents of FBI memos he discovered after spending weeks sifting through more than 54,000 documents located on the National Archive’s website. Initially sealed by court order until 2027, the documents ended up being made available in recent months through the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992

The memos claim that agents knew that King and a group including Baltimore Pastor Logan Kearse were going to be staying at the Willard Hotel in January 1964 days before he ever arrived. The most troubling memos describe King witnessing a rape in a hotel room. Instead of stopping it, handwritten notes in the file say he laughed and encouraged Kearse who died in 1991 to continue. The FBI allegedly listened in on King and at least 11 others who participated in what the FBI memos describe as “an orgy” on Jan. 6, 1964.

Many of these transcripts were based on audiotapes that are still sealed until 2027 under a court order. That’s when the FBI’s full audiotapes, photographs and film footage of King will be unsealed per a 1977 court order.

Questionable Motives

Some historians have questioned Garrow’s choice to publish the content of the memos and transcripts without listening to the recordings, and have pointed out that the FBI had spent years trying to undermine King. People will rightly debate the trustworthiness of FBI sources, and Garrow’s interpretation of them. No figure, no matter how revered, should be immune from scrutiny over their potential support for violence against women.

But those weighing the evidence and its legitimacy should not forget that the tapes being used to facilitate this discussion were created and preserved with the goal of destroying Martin Luther King’s reputation. The FBI’s intent was to demoralize and fragment the coalition of supporters King brought together in his life, the people who find common purpose by honoring his memory.

Media Propaganda

A large segment of the black community is too quick to buy into racist narratives created in the news media about black athletes, entertainers, politicians, and leaders.

As we've mentioned before 90 percent of mass media is controlled by a few white corporations. Negative perceptions of black people persist primarily because of racist propaganda. Most white television programming and movies depict even successful black people as former drug dealers, criminals or they have some major character flaw and can't be trusted. 

Bill Cosby's reputation was destroyed after a massive media propaganda campaign that accused him of sexually assaulting dozens of women. Cosby was eventually convicted of aggravated indecent assault and sentenced to 3 to 10 years in prison. The Cosby Show and A Different World helped spread a more positive image of African-Americans all around the world. The Cosby Show made possible a larger variety of shows with a predominantly African-American cast, such as In Living Color, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and others.

The Cosby Show may not have been possible if Dr. King hadn't inspired millions of people through his actions and words. Although, there were others who were equally dedicated, such as Medgar Evers and Malcolm X who also gave their lives fighting for civil rights; none were more persuasive. Now Dr. King's legacy which inspired a national holiday is under assault.

The white media machine will viciously attack Dr. King's reputation and legacy. Hopefully, large segments of the black community will not be fooled into abandoning one of their most cherished champions. As a reminder of white media's power; in January of this year, the following black reputations were attacked:

  • Michael Jackson and R. Kelly were vilified in the documentaries "Leaving Neverland" and "Surviving R. Kelly". Both were previously found not guilty in prior sex abuse cases. New charges were bought against Kelly after Surviving R. Kelly aired.
  • Chris Brown was arrested on rape and drug charges in Paris, however, charges were later dropped but the investigation remains open.
  • Jussie Smollett after reporting being attacked became a suspect and was indicted on 16 felony counts and faced 64 years in prison. The police held an elaborate press conference which was essentially trial by public opinion. All charges were eventually dropped and the Black prosecutor was smeared. The Chicago police just recently released hundreds of pages of the Smollett case file

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and others are celebrated by white people despite them being slave owners and rapist. Many in the white community still believe black people should stand to honor a song adopted as the national anthem that celebrated the deaths and defeat of slaves who were fighting for their freedom. 

Mentioning slaves fighting for freedom reminded me of the 2016 media attack on Nate Parker, director and star of "Birth of a Nation", a wonderful film about the slave rebellion led by Nat Turner. Nate Parker and his roommate and wrestling teammate, Jean McGianni Celestin, were accused of raping a white female student at Penn State. Parker was acquitted on all four counts brought against him. Celestin was convicted but it was later overturned.  False rape allegations are an effective tool of white supremacists; countless numbers of black men have been lynched, jailed and ruined.  "Birth of a Nation" was expected to be a huge success and Oscar contender until the media campaign smeared Parker's reputation prior to the release of the film. 

Dr. King cannot defend himself against these outrageous allegations, so we must. He gave his life fighting for freedoms and privileges we now take for granted. Destruction of Dr. King's reputation is paramount to an assassination of his dream and legacy.