The portrayal of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in newly released documents from the pile of unsealed files about President John F. Kennedy’s assassination is untrue, a historian tells the Washington Post.
“The No. 1 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,” said David Garrow, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian.
The FBI is known for its invasive surveillance of King through the 60s as his fame and organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, grew.
One unproven claim was that King had communist influences. The 20-page FBI document from early 1968 cites King's trusted adviser Stanley Levison as a major influencer. Levison was a top donor of the Communist Party USA over a decade before he met King.
“I think the No. 1 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.”
The documents also give a glimpse into the animosity FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had towards King, especially after King criticized the FBI as “completely ineffectual in resolving the continued mayhem and brutality inflicted upon the Negro in the deep South” in 1964.
The FBI was later chastised for its relentless effort to dig up dirt on King by the 1970s Senate committee that reviewed the FBI’s intelligence operations.