It is hard to understand why there are so many documents on the Rev. Martin Luther King contained in the assassination files of President John F. Kennedy. You would think there would be much more information on Robert F. Kennedy, the former attorney general; he was, after all, the president’s brother. But there is more documentation related to King than even Bobby Kennedy in the JFK files.
Why did the FBI and other investigators spend so much time on King while they were investigating the assassination of JFK? And what was the purpose of digging up all this dirt on King? And why was the salacious, scandalous and image-destroying information about Dr. King dropped on the public like a bomb?
Contained in these files is information that’s very explosive and potentially damning:
- That Martin Luther King had multiple extramarital affairs;
- That he had an affinity for orgies;
- That he was at parties that included homosexuality (a serious no-no in the 1960s);
- That he fathered a love child with a married woman;
- That he had an affair with folk singer Joan Baez;
- That that he smoked and drank heavily and hosted many drunken parties.
Some historians and media pundits have a theory: The 20-page document, authored by the FBI, attempts to link King to communism and alleged financial irregularities at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the civil rights organization that he led and that both JFK and RFK supported.
To be sure, many of us who were students of history knew many years ago that King had engaged in extramarital affairs; even former confidante Ralph David Abernathy admitted as much on live TV back in the 1980s. (The subject of King’s infidelities was handled deftly in the movie Selma by the brilliant rising director Ava DuVernay).
But what is contained in these FBI files is shocking, even to those of us who studied the Civil Rights Movement.
To be sure, the longtime director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, was completely obsessed with King and communism. And he unleashed a violent, virulent campaign to destroy King and other Black leaders called CounterIntelligence Program, or COINTELPRO, that was designed to “neutralize” King and “prevent the rise of a black messiah” who could “unify the black masses.”
Dr. Clayborne Carson, the director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute and a Stanford University history professor, does not believe the allegations made in the newly released document, according to an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper that aired Friday, Nov. 3.
“When we look closely at this, what we see is that there is a person who is trying his best to damage Martin Luther King’s reputation,” Carson said, referring to Hoover and his lethal and illegal COINTELPRO campaign against Black leaders.
In fact, in 1964, when King was about to win the Nobel Peace Prize and Time magazine’s “Man of the Year” award that Hoover coveted for himself, a package containing tapes of King’s alleged affairs and a letter to King was delivered to his house and opened by his wife, Coretta Scott King. The letter appeared to urge King to commit suicide, saying. “There is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. You have just 34 days” before your “filthy, fraudulent self is bared before the nation.”
A Senate committee later confirmed the anonymous package had been sent by Hoover of the FBI.