Half-Century Legacy: Investigating The FBI’s Criminalization of MLK

While in modern years Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has been unanimously praised as a valiant and  proud public leader, this has not always been the case.

Dr. King has touched thousands of lives with his poetic words and heroic yet nonviolent actions, with activists and philosophers in the generations since his death adopting his mantras and doctrines and using them as their own personal guidance through life. This is unassailable in the aftermath and wake of Dr. King’s inspirational life and horrific death.

However, in light of the 50th anniversary of his assassination, it’s important not to forget that the love and affection we as a nation now feel for Martin Luther King Jr., was not always the general sentiment. Before all of the buildings and monuments and streets dedicated to the public in his memory, Dr. King was labeled as a dangerous criminal.

Many people conveniently fail to remember that Dr. King was sent to jail for protesting, and was seen as an agitator and anti-American in many instances. Our country did not always accept the things that Dr. King had to say. The government, which predominantly consisted of white citizens, and even some people of color, saw Martin Luther King Jr. as a treacherous terrorist. No matter how peaceful he was, the government began to pick up on the fact that Dr. King was powerfully influential, and could compel many to an action, as demonstrated by the March on Washington in August of 1963.

 

Martin Luther King
Propaganda article courtesy of martinlutherking.org

Because what could possibly be more threatening to the American way of life than freedom of speech exercised by a charismatic, dynamic Black man with a large, dedicated group of followers?

The FBI not only surveilled Dr. King every step of the way, but they tried to eradicate him. First, in attempting to turn the public against him by maligning his character, and when all their efforts utterly failed, they stooped to the lowest of the low.

As you have probably seen, the suicide letter that was originally published in the New York Times:

Courtesty of: National Archives, College Park, Maryland

Originally written as though it were by one of Dr. King’s fellow activists, the letter was drafted by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover – a shot at getting Dr. King to take his own life by calling him a “fraud” and bringing up his “sexually psychotic” past.

And ever since his death, which is arguably what the FBI wanted, our country has been criminalizing black youth through drug abuse and petty crimes, as well as through black activism.

So truly the anniversary of the great orator and public saint Martin Luther King Jr. is marked by the dark, grotesque side of his legacy as well; with the FBI singling out individuals from the Black Lives Matter organization as subversive renegades.

It’s okay to remember everything that was revolutionary and legendary about Martin Luther King Jr.; just don’t let America forget everything that this country put him and his movement through. Don’t forget that segregation ended just 54 years ago, and Black communities are still discriminated against and suffering from the inevitable impact of systematic racism, segregation and slavery. Rather than erasing critical parts of history, we need to bear their weight, and learn from them.

Remember that the FBI were and still are a corrupt organization, and they do not always work in the interest of the people. Instead of blindly following and trusting their authority, spread the truth, as many people have taken to twitter today to do.

 

Dr. King’s 39 short years on this Earth were too few to benefit completely from his immeasurable wisdom and strength. Let’s honor his presence in our hearts and minds by taking on his radical spirit and making sure the the treatment of Dr. King and his pacifist movement isn’t forgotten or repeated ever again. Even 50 years after the brutal murder of Dr. King, our country and it’s justice system are no where near acceptable. So we must keep fighting for justice, because we can’t tolerate anything less than equality and fairness. For his Dream, for our own dreams, and for the promise of a better future for all. 

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Photo credit: The Philadelphia Tribune

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