Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
(January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an
American political activist, the most famous leader of the American civil rights
movement, and a Baptist minister. Considered a peacemaker throughout the world
for his promotion of nonviolence and equal treatment for different races, he
received the Nobel Peace Prize before he was assassinated in 1968.
Martin Luther King - I Have A Dream Speech - August 28, 1963
He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by
Jimmy Carter in 1977, the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004, and in 1986, Martin
Luther King Day was established in his honor. King's most influential and well-known speech is the
"I Have A Dream" speech.
Civil rights activism
Commentnt> "God Bless You Mr. King!! You was the greatest man alivee!! If it wasn't for you, i wouldn't have my bestfriend Quentin. He's not my color but i still love him!! Hes my best friend!!((: Your NEVER forgotten. R.I.P. Rest In Peace!!"
In 1953, at the age of twenty-four, King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue
Baptist Church, in Montgomery, Alabama. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was
arrested for refusing to comply with the Jim Crow law that required her to give
up her seat to a white man. The Montgomery Bus Boycott, led by King, soon
followed. It lasted for 382 days, the situation becoming so tense that King's
house was bombed. King was arrested during this campaign, which ended with a
United States Supreme Court decision outlawing racial segregation on all public
King was instrumental in the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership
Conference (SCLC) in 1947, a group created to harness the moral authority and
organizing power of black churches to conduct nonviolent protests in the service
of civil rights reform. King continued to dominate the organization. King was an
adherent of the philosophies of nonviolent civil disobedience used successfully
in India by Mahatma Gandhi, and he applied this philosophy to the protests
organized by the SCLC.
The FBI began wiretapping King in 1961, fearing that communists were trying
to infiltrate the Civil Rights Movement, but when no such evidence emerged, the
bureau used the incidental details caught on tape over six years in attempts to
force King out of the pre-eminent leadership position.
Pacifist A. J. Muste, the executive director of the Fellowship of
Reconciliation, served as an advisor to Martin Luther King Jr. King correctly
recognized that organized, non-violent protest against the racist system of
southern segregation known as Jim Crow laws would lead to extensive media
coverage of the struggle for black equality and voting rights. Indeed,
journalistic accounts and televised footage of the daily deprivation and
indignities suffered by southern blacks, and of segregationist violence and
harassment of civil rights workers and marchers, produced a wave of sympathetic
public opinion that made the Civil Rights Movement the single most important
issue in American politics in the early-1960s.
King organized and led marches for blacks' right to vote, desegregation,
labor rights and other basic civil rights. Most of these rights were
successfully enacted into United States law with the passage of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
King and the SCLC applied the principles of nonviolent protest with great
success by strategically choosing the method of protest and the places in which
protests were carried out in often dramatic stand-offs with segregationist
authorities. Sometimes these confrontations turned violent. King and the SCLC
were instrumental in the unsuccessful protest movement in Albany, in 1961 &
1962, where divisions within the black community and the canny, low-key response
by local government defeated efforts; in the Birmingham protests in the summer
of 1963; and in the protest in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1964. King and the
SCLC joined forces with SNCC in Selma, Alabama, in December 1964, where SNCC had
been working on voter registration for a number of months.
Stance on compensation
On several occasions King expressed a view that black Americans, as well as
other disadvantaged Americans, should be compensated for historical wrongs.
Speaking to Alex Haley in 1965, he said that granting black Americans only
equality could not realistically close the economic gap between them and whites.
King said that he did not seek a full restitution of wages lost to slavery,
which he believed impossible, but proposed a government program to "equip [the
Negro] to compete on a just and equal basis" as well as other disadvantaged
people His 1964 book Why
We Can't Wait elaborated this idea further, presenting it as an application
of the common law regarding settlement of unpaid labor.
The March on Washington
Luther King was a great man. He did all he could to make everyone equal.
I really do respect this man. Martin Luther King rest in peace"
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King, representing SCLC, was among the leaders of the so-called "Big Six"
civil rights organizations who were instrumental in the organization of the
March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. The other leaders and
organizations comprising the Big Six were: Roy Wilkins, NAACP; Whitney Young, Jr.,
Urban League; A. Philip Randolph, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; John
Lewis, SNCC; and James Farmer of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). For
King, this role was another which courted controversy, as he was one of the key
figures who acceded to the wishes of President John F. Kennedy in changing the
focus of the march. Kennedy initially opposed the march outright, because he was
concerned it would negatively impact the drive for passage of civil rights
legislation, but the organizers were firm that the march would proceed.
The march originally was conceived as an event to dramatize the desperate
condition of blacks in the South and a very public opportunity to place
organizers' concerns and grievances squarely before the seat of power in the
nation's capital. Organizers intended to excoriate and then challenge the
federal government for its failure to safeguard the civil rights and physical
safety of civil rights workers and blacks, generally, in the South. However, the
group acquiesced to presidential pressure and influence, and the event
ultimately took on a far less strident tone.
As a result, some civil rights activists felt it presented an inaccurate,
sanitized pageant of racial harmony; Malcolm X called it the "Farce on
Washington," and members of the Nation of Islam who attended the march faced a
The march did, however, make specific demands: an end to racial segregation
in public school; meaningful civil rights legislation, including a law
prohibiting racial discrimination in employment; protection of civil rights
workers from police brutality; a $2 minimum wage for all workers; and
self-government for the District of Columbia, then governed by congressional
Despite tensions, the march was a resounding success. More than a quarter of
a million people of diverse ethnicities attended the event, sprawling from the
steps of the Lincoln Memorial onto the National Mall and around the reflecting
pool. At the time, it was the largest gathering of protesters in Washington's
history. King's I Have a Dream speech electrified the crowd. It is regarded,
along with President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, as one of the finest speeches
in the history of American oratory. President Kennedy, himself opposed to the
march, met King afterwards with enthusiasm - repeating King's line back to him;
"I have a dream", while nodding with approval.
Throughout his career of service, King wrote and spoke frequently, drawing on
his long experience as a preacher. His "Letter from Birmingham Jail", written in
1963, is a passionate statement of his crusade for justice. On October 14, 1964,
King became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded
to him for leading non-violent resistance to end racial prejudice in the United
Comment "Martin Luther King was a great and honorable man who cared so much for everyone else that he was willing to die for them......God may you let his soul rest in peace and keep his family safe."
Have your say
King and SCLC, in partial collaboration with SNCC, then attempted to organize
a march from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery, for March 25, 1965. The
first attempt to march on March 7, was aborted due to mob and police violence
against the demonstrators. This day since has become known as Bloody Sunday.
Bloody Sunday was a major turning point in the effort to gain public support for
the Civil Rights Movement, the clearest demonstration up to that time of the
dramatic potential of King's nonviolence strategy. King, however, was not
present. After meeting with President John F. Kennedy, he had attempted to delay
the march until March 8, but the march was carried out against his wishes and
without his presence by local civil rights workers. The footage of the police
brutality against the protesters was broadcast extensively across the nation and
aroused a national sense of public outrage.
The second attempt at the march on March 9 was ended when King stopped the
procession at the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the outskirts of Selma, an action
which he seemed to have negotiated with city leaders beforehand. This unexpected
action aroused the surprise and anger of many within the local movement. The
march finally went ahead fully on March 25, and it was during this march that
Willie Ricks coined the phrase "Black Power" (widely credited to Stokely
African American civil rights activist Bayard Rustin counseled King to
dedicate himself to the principles of non-violence in 1956, and had a leadership
role in organizing the 1963 March on Washington. However, Rustin's open
homosexuality and support of democratic socialism and (long-abandoned) ties to
the Communist Party USA caused many white and African American leaders to demand
that King distance himself from Rustin, which he did on several occasions, but
not all — such as when he ensured Rustin's role in the March on Washington.
Comment "martin luther king was a very inspiring man and
RIP god bless you"
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In 1966, after several successes in the South, King and other people in the
civil rights organizations tried to spread the movement to the North, with
Chicago as its first target. King and Ralph Abernathy, both middle class folk,
moved into Chicago's slums as an educational experience and to demonstrate their
support and empathy for the poor.
Their organization, The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)
formed a coalition with CCCO, Coordinating Committee of Community Organizations,
an organization itself founded by Albert Raby, Jr., and the combined
organizations' efforts were fostered under the aegis of The Chicago Freedom
Movement (CFO). During that Spring a number of dual white couple/black couple
tests on real estate offices uncovered a now banned by the Real Estate Industry
practice of "steering" and the racially selective processing of housing requests
by the couples who were exact matches in income and background and number of
children and other attributes, with the difference being the race of the
couples. Without exception, the black couples were rejected and the white
couples were accepted at the real estate offices which were then picketed by CFO.
The needs of the movement for radical change grew and several larger marches
were planned and executed including those in the following neighborhoods: Bogan,
Belmont-Cragin, Jefferson Park, Evergreen Park (A Suburb southwest of Chicago),
Gage Park and Marquette Park, among others.
In Chicago, Abernathy would later write, they received a worse reception than
they had received in the South. Thrown bottles and screaming throngs met their
marches and they were truly afraid of starting a riot.
King had always felt a responsibility to the people he was leading. He would
not unnecessarily stage a violent event, something personal to him as a radical
social leader of the 1960s or any other decade. If King had intimations that a
peaceful march would be put down with violence he would call it off for the
safety of people. But he himself still faced death many a time by marching at
the front in the face of death threats to his person. And in Chicago the
violence was so formidable, it shook the two friends.
But worse than the violence was the two-facedness of the city leaders.
Abernathy and King secured agreements on action to be taken, but this action was
largely bureaucratically killed after-the-fact by politicians within Mayor
Richard J. Daley's corrupt machine. Some of their small successes, such as
Operation Breadbasket, translated into People United to Save Humanity P.U.S.H
as large as the desegregation cases of the bus boycott in the South. They lit
the fire of ideas like affirmative action and organizing labor as legitimate
techniques in the minds of the people.
Abernathy could not stand the slums and secretly moved out after a short
period. King stayed and wrote about how Coretta and his children suffered
emotional problems from the horrid conditions and inability to play outside.
Comment "Martin Luther King is the greatest man in the 20th century! Him and Malcolm are awesome!"
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When King and his allies returned to the South, they left Jesse Jackson, a
seminary student with experience with the movement in the south since he had
joined King, in charge of their organization. While Jackson had a great deal of
heart and oratorical skill, he managed to start the very first boycotts which
showed success against what we would have called "Big Box" stores today. One
such campaign was that against A&P Stores which refused to hire blacks as clerks
in their stores. The campaign was so effective, that it laid the groundwork for
the equal opportunity programs of the Seventies and on. Jackson also initiated
the first "Black Expo" under the auspices of SCLC as Operation Breadbasket, and
continued free standing as Operation P.U.S.H. after a split with SCLC. Black
Expo became P.U.S.H. Expo, which continued to showcase the many long-standing
and newly formed Black Businesses such as Johnson Publishing, Parker House
Sausage, Seaway National Bank, and many businesses that were start-ups then,
that exist today, and which owe their existence to P.U.S.H. EXCEL, the current
form of the organization.
Starting in 1965, King began to express doubts about the United States' role
in the Vietnam War. On April 4, 1967 -- exactly one year before his death --
King spoke out strongly against the US's role in the war, insisting that the US
was in Vietnam "to occupy it as an American colony" and calling the US
government "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today." But he also
argued that the country needed larger and broader moral changes:
- A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast
of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas
and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia,
Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the
social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just."
King was long hated by many white southern segregationists, but this speech
turned the more mainstream media against him. TIME called the speech
"demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi", and The
Washington Post declared that King had "diminished his usefulness to his
cause, his country, his people."
With regards to Vietnam, King often claimed that North Vietnam "did not begin
to send in any large number of supplies or men until American forces had arrived
in the tens of thousands." (Quoted in Michael Lind, Vietnam: The Necessary
War, 1999 p. 182) King also praised North Vietnam's land reform. (Quoted in
Lind, 1999) He accused the United States of having killed a million Vietnamese
"mostly children." (Guenter Lewey, America in Vietnam, 1978 pp. 444-5) He
once even equated U.S. involvement in Vietnam to Nazi Germany's use of
concentration camps. (Quoted in Lind, 1999)]]
The speech was a reflection of King's evolving political advocacy in his
later years, sparked in part by his affiliation with and training at the
progressive Highlander Research and Education Center. King began to speak of the
need for fundamental changes in the political and economic life of the nation.
Toward the end of his life, King more frequently expressed his opposition to the
war and his desire to see a redistribution of resources to correct racial and
economic injustice. Though his public language was guarded, so as to avoid being
linked to communism by his political enemies, in private he sometimes spoke of
his support for democratic socialism:
- You can't talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without
talking about billions of dollars. You can't talk about ending the slums without
first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You're really tampering and
getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are
messing with captains of industry.... Now this means that we are treading in
difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is
wrong... with capitalism.... There must be a better distribution of wealth and
maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism. (Frogmore, S.C. November
14, 1966. Speech in front of his staff.)
King also stated in his "Beyond Vietnam" speech that "True compassion is more
than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces
beggars needs restructuring." From Vietnam to South Africa to Latin America,
King said, the U.S. was "on the wrong side of a world revolution." King
questioned "our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America," and asked why
the U.S. was suppressing revolutions "of the shirtless and barefoot people" in
the Third World, instead of supporting them.
In 1968, King and the SCLC organized the "Poor People's Campaign" to address
issues of economic justice. However, according to the article "Coalition
Building and Mobilization Against Poverty", King and SCLC's Poor People's
Campaign was not supported by the other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement,
including Bayard Rustin. Their opposition incorporated arguments that the goals
of Poor People Campaign was too broad, the demands unrealizable, and thought
these campaigns would accelerate the backlash and repression on the poor and the
The campaign culminated in a march on Washington, D.C. demanding economic aid
to the poorest communities of the United States. He crisscrossed the country to
assemble "a multiracial army of the poor" that would descend on Washington --
engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience at the Capitol, if need be -- until
Congress enacted a poor people's bill of rights. Reader's Digest warned of an
King's economic bill of rights called for massive government jobs programs to
rebuild America's cities. He saw a crying need to confront a Congress that had
demonstrated its "hostility to the poor" -- appropriating "military funds with
alacrity and generosity," but providing "poverty funds with miserliness." His
vision was for change that was more revolutionary than mere reform: he cited
systematic flaws of racism, poverty, militarism and materialism, and that
"reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced." Garrow, op.cit.
In April 3, 1968, King prophetically told a euphoric crowd during his "I've
Been to the Mountaintop" speech:
- It really doesn't matter what happens now.... some began to... talk about
the threats that were out -- what would happen to me from some of our sick white
brothers.... Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its
place, but I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And
He's allowed me to go up to the mountain! And I've looked over, and I've
seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know
tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And so I'm happy
tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have
seen the Glory of the coming of the Lord!
In late March, 1968, Dr. King went to Memphis, Tennessee in support of the
black garbage workers of AFSCME Local 1733, who had been on strike since March
12 for higher wages and better treatment: for example, African American workers,
paid $1.70 per hour, were not paid when sent home because of inclement weather
(unlike white workers).
On April 3, Dr. King returned to Memphis and addressed a rally, delivering
his "I've been to the Mountaintop" address.
King was assassinated at 6:01 p.m. April 4, 1968, on the balcony of the
Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Friends inside the motel room heard the
shots and ran to the balcony to find King shot in the throat. He was pronounced
dead at St. Joseph's Hospital at 7:05 p.m. The assassination led to a nationwide
wave of riots in more than 60 cities.
Five days later, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a national day of mourning
for the lost civil rights leader. A crowd of 300,000 attended his funeral that
same day. Vice-President Hubert Humphrey attended on behalf of Lyndon B.
Johnson, who was meeting with several advisors and cabinet officers on the
Vietnam War in Camp David. Also, there were fears he might be hit with protests
and abuses over the war. The city quickly settled the strike, on favorable
terms, after the assassination.
Two months after King's death, escaped convict James Earl Ray was captured at
London Heathrow Airport while trying to leave the United Kingdom on a false
Canadian passport in the name of Ramon George Sneyd. Ray was quickly extradited
to Tennessee and charged with King's murder, confessing to the assassination on
March 10, 1969 (though he recanted this confession three days later). Later, Ray
would be sentenced to a 99-year prison term.
On the advice of his attorney Percy Foreman, Ray took a guilty plea to avoid
a trial conviction and thus the possibility of receiving the death penalty.
Ray fired Foreman as his attorney (from then on derisively calling him "Percy
Fourflusher") claiming that a man he met in Montreal, Canada with the alias "Raoul"
was involved, as was his brother Johnny, but not himself, further asserting that
although he didn't "personally shoot Dr. King," he may have been "partially
responsible without knowing it," hinting at a conspiracy. He spent the remainder
of his life attempting (unsuccessfully) to withdraw his guilty plea and secure
the trial he never had.
On June 10, 1977, shortly after Ray had testified to the House Select
Committee on Assassinations that he did not shoot King, he and six other
convicts escaped from Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in Petros, Tennessee.
They were recaptured on June 13 and returned to prison.
More years were then added to his sentence for attempting to escape from the
Allegations of conspiracy
Some have speculated that Ray had been used as a "patsy" similar to the way
that alleged John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was supposed to have
been. Some of the claims used to support this assertion are:
- Ray's confession was given under pressure and he had been threatened with
- Ray was a small-time thief and burglar, and had no record of committing
violent crimes with a weapon.
- The weapon that Ray is believed to have used in the assassination (a
Remington Gamemaster Model 760 .30-'06 caliber rifle) had only two of Ray's
fingerprints on it.
- According to several fellow prison inmates, Ray had never expressed any
political or racial opinions of any kind, casting doubt on Ray's purported
motive for committing the crime.
- The rooming-house bathroom from which Ray is said to have fired the fatal
shots did not have any of his fingerprints at all.
- Ray was believed to have been an average marksman, and it is claimed by many
that Ray had not fired a rifle since his discharge from the United States Army
in the late-1940s.
Many suspecting a conspiracy in the assassination point out the two separate
ballistic tests conducted on the Remington Gamemaster had neither conclusively
proved Ray had been the killer nor that it had even been the murder weapon.
Moreover, witnesses surrounding King at the moment of his death say the shot
came from another location, from behind thick shrubbery near the rooming house,
not from the rooming house itself, shrubbery which had been suddenly and
inexplicably cut away in the days following the assassination.
Also, Ray's petty criminal history had been one of colossal and repeated
ineptitude; he'd been quickly and easily apprehended each time he committed an
offense, behavior in sharp contrast to his actions shortly before and after the
shooting; he'd easily managed to secure several different pieces of legitimate
identification, using the names and personal data of living men who all
coincidentally looked like and were of about the same age and physical build as
Ray; he spent large sums of cash and traveled overseas without being apprehended
at any border crossing, even though he had been a wanted fugitive. According to
Ray, all of this had been accomplished with the aid of the still unidentified "Raoul."
Investigative reporter Louis Lomax had also discovered the Missouri Department
of Corrections, shortly after Ray's April 1967 prison escape, had sent the
incorrect set of fingerprints to the FBI and had failed to notice or correct
this error. Lomax had been publishing a series of investigative stories on the
King assassination for the North American Newspaper Alliance, stories
challenging the official view of the case, and had been reportedly pressured by
the FBI to halt his investigation.
According to a former Pemiscot County, Missouri deputy sheriff, Jim Green,
who claimed to have been part of an FBI-led conspiracy to kill King, Ray had
been targeted as the patsy for the King assassination shortly before his April
1967 prison escape and had been tracked by the Bureau during his year as a
fugitive. After several trips to and from Canada and Mexico during this time,
Ray had gone to Memphis after agreeing to participate (allegedly controlled by
his mysterious benefactor "Raoul" who reportedly had weeks before while in
Birmingham, Alabama ordered Ray to purchase the Remington Gamemaster rifle) in
what he was told was a major bank robbery while King was in town--since city
police resources would be dedicated toward maintaining security for King and his
entourage, the intended bank heist would be much simpler than usual. Green (who,
like Ray, had asserted that FBI assistant director Cartha DeLoach headed the
assassination plot) had claimed Ray had been ordered to stay in the rooming
house and as a diversion for the purported bank heist, to then hold up a small
diner near the rooming house at approximately 6:00 p.m. on April 4. King was
shot a minute later by a sniper hidden in the shrubbery near the rooming house.
Meanwhile, according to Green, two men, one of them allegedly a Memphis police
detective, were waiting to ambush and kill Ray, while Ray was on his way to the
planned diner holdup and then plant the Remington rifle in the trunk of Ray's
pale yellow (not white) 1966 Ford Mustang, effectively framing a dead man.
However, moments before the assassination, Ray had apparently suspected a setup
and instead quickly left town in his Mustang, heading for Atlanta, Georgia.
Atlanta police found Ray's abandoned Mustang six days after King had been shot.
In 1997, Martin Luther King's son Dexter King met with Ray, and publicly
supported Ray's efforts to obtain a trial.
In 1999, Coretta Scott King, King's widow (and a civil rights leader
herself), along with the rest of King's family, won a wrongful death civil trial
against Loyd Jowers and "other unknown co-conspirators". Jowers claimed to have
received $100,000 to arrange King's assassination. The jury of six whites and
six blacks found Jowers guilty and that "governmental agencies were parties" to
the assassination plot. William Pepper represented the King family in the trial.
In 2000, the Department of Justice completed the investigation about Jowers'
claims, but did not find evidence to support the allegations about conspiracy.
The investigation report recommends no further investigation unless some new
reliable facts are presented.
Jesse Jackson, who was with King at the time of his death, noted:
"The fact is there were saboteurs to disrupt the march. [And] within our own
organization, we found a very key person who was on the government payroll. So
infiltration within, saboteurs from without and the press attacks. ... I will
never believe that James Earl Ray had the motive, the money and the mobility to
have done it himself. Our government was very involved in setting the stage for
and I think the escape route for James Earl Ray."
King biographer David Garrow disagrees with William F. Pepper's claims that
the government killed King. He is supported by King assassination author Gerald
On April 6, 2002, the New York Times reported a church minister, Rev. Ronald
Denton Wilson, claimed his father, Henry Clay Wilson, - not James Earl Ray -
assassinated Rev Martin Luther King Jr. He stated, "It wasn't a racist thing; he
thought Martin Luther King was connected with communism, and he wanted to get
him out of the way."
King and the FBI
King had a mutually antagonistic relationship with the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI), especially its director, J. Edgar Hoover. Under written
directives from then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, the FBI began tracking
King and the SCLC in 1961. Its investigations were largely superficial until
1962, when it learned that one of King's most trusted advisers was New York City
lawyer Stanley Levison. The Bureau of Investigation found that Levison had been
involved with the Communist Party USA—to which another key King lieutenant,
Hunter Pitts O'Dell, was also linked by sworn testimony before the House
Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). The Bureau placed wiretaps on Levison
and King's home and office phones, and bugged King's rooms in hotels as he
travelled across the country. The Bureau also informed then-Attorney General
Robert F. Kennedy and then-President John F. Kennedy, both of whom
unsuccessfully tried to persuade King to dissociate himself from Levison. For
his part, King adamantly denied having any connections to communism, stating in
a 1965 Playboy interview
that "there are as many communists in this freedom movement as there are Eskimos
in Florida"; to which Hoover responded by calling King "the most notorious liar
in the country."
The attempt to prove that King was a communist was in keeping with the
feeling of many segregationists that blacks in the South were happy with their
lot, but had been stirred up by "communists" and "outside agitators."
Lawyer-advisor Stanley D. Levinson did have ties with the Communist Party in
various business dealings, but the FBI refused to believe its own intelligence
bureau reports that Levinson was no longer associated in that capacity. Movement
leaders countered that voter disenfranchisement, lack of education and
employment opportunities, discrimination and vigilante violence were the reasons
for the strength of the Civil Rights Movement, and that blacks had the
intelligence and motivation to organize on their own.
Later, the focus of the Bureau's investigations shifted to attempting to
discredit King through revelations regarding his private life. FBI surveillance
of King, some of it since made public, attempted to demonstrate that he also
engaged in numerous extramarital affairs. Further remarks on King's lifestyle
were made by several prominent officials, such as President Lyndon B. Johnson
who notoriously said that King was a “hypocrite preacher”. However, much of what
was recorded was, as quoted by his attorney, speech-writer and close friend
Clarence B. Jones, "midnight" talk or just two close friends joking around about
women. It isn't clear if King actually engaged in extramarital affairs or not.
The Bureau distributed reports regarding such affairs to the executive
branch, friendly reporters, potential coalition partners and funding sources of
the SCLC, and King's family. The Bureau also sent anonymous letters to King
threatening to reveal information if he didn't cease his civil rights work. One
anonymous letter sent to King just before he received the Nobel Peace Prize
read, in part, "...The American public, the church organizations that have been
helping -- Protestants, Catholics and Jews will know you for what you are -- an
evil beast. So will others who have backed you. You are done. King, there, is
only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. You have just 34 days in
which to do (this exact number has been selected for a specific reason, it has
definite practical significance). You are done. There is but one way out for
you. You better take it before your filthy fraudulent self is bared to the
nation." This is often
interpreted as inviting King's suicide,
though William Sullivan argued that it may have only been intended to "convince
Dr. King to resign from the SCLC."
Finally, the Bureau's investigation shifted away from King's personal life to
intelligence and counterintelligence work on the direction of the SCLC and the
Black Power movement.
In January 31, 1977, in the cases of Bernard S. Lee v. Clarence M. Kelley, et
al. and Southern Christian Leadership Conference v. Clarence M. Kelley, et al.
United States District Judge John Lewis Smith, Jr., ordered all known copies of
the recorded audiotapes and written transcripts resulting from the FBI's
electronic surveillance of King between 1963 and 1968, be held in the National
Archives and sealed from public access until 2027.
Across from the Lorraine Motel, next to the rooming house in which James Earl
Ray was staying, was a vacant fire station. The FBI was assigned to observe King
during the appearance he was planning to make on the Lorraine Motel second-floor
balcony later that day, and utilized the fire station as a makeshift base. Using
papered-over windows with peepholes cut into them, the agents watched over the
scene until Martin Luther King was shot. Immediately following the shooting, all
six agents rushed out of the station and were the first people to administer
first-aid to King. Their presence nearby has led to speculation that the FBI was
involved in the assassination.
Awards and recognition
Besides winning the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, in 1965 the American Jewish
Committee presented King with the American Liberties Medallion for his
"exceptional advancement of the principles of human liberty." Reverend King said
in his acceptance remarks, "Freedom is one thing. You have it all or you are not
In 1966, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America awarded Dr. King the
Margaret Sanger Award for "his courageous resistance to bigotry and his lifelong
dedication to the advancement of social justice and human dignity."
In 1977, the Presidential Medal of Freedom was awarded posthumously to King
by Jimmy Carter.
King is the second most admired person in the 20th century, according to a
King was voted 6th in the Person of the Century poll by TIME.
King was elected the third Greatest American of all time by the American
public in a contest conducted by the Discovery Channel and AOL.
Books by Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Stride toward freedom; the Montgomery story (1958)
- The Measure of a Man (1959)
- Strength to Love (1963)
- Why We Can't Wait (1964)
- Where do we go from here: Chaos or community? (1967)
- The Trumpet of Conscience (1968)
- A Testament of Hope : The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin
Luther King, Jr. (1986)
- The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King Jr.
and Clayborne Carson (1998)
King is one of the most widely revered figures in American history. For
example, a 2005 televised call-in poll identified King as the third greatest
American, following Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln. Even posthumous
accusations of marital infidelity, and academic plagiarism have not seriously
damaged his public reputation but merely reinforced the image of a very human
hero and leader. It is true that King's movement faltered in the latter stages,
after the great legislative victories were won by 1965 (The Voting Rights Act,
and the Civil Rights Act). But even the sharp attacks by more militant blacks,
(See Black Power Movement), and even such prominent critics as Muslim leader
Malcolm X, have not diminished his stature.
On the international scene, King's legacy included influences on the Black
Consciousness Movement and Civil Rights Movements in South Africa. King's work
was cited by and served as an inspiration for another black Nobel Peace prize
winner who fought for racial justice in that country, Albert Lutuli.
King's wife, Coretta Scott King, followed her husband's footsteps and was
active in matters of social justice and civil rights until her death in 2006.
The same year Martin Luther King was assassinated, Mrs. King established the
King Center in Atlanta, Georgia,
dedicated to preserving his legacy and the work of championing nonviolent
conflict resolution and tolerance worldwide. His son, Dexter King, currently
serves as the Center's president and CEO. Daughter Yolanda King is a
motivational speaker, author and founder of Higher Ground Productions, an
organization specializing in diversity training.
King's name and legacy have often been invoked since his death as people have
begun to debate where he would have stood on various modern political issues
were he alive today. For example, there is some debate even within the King
family as to where he would have stood on gay rights issues. Although King's
widow Coretta has said publicly that she believes her husband would have
supported gay rights, his daughter Bernice believes he would have been opposed
to them. The King Center lists
homophobia as an evil that must be opposed.
In 1980, King's boyhood home in Atlanta and several other nearby buildings
were declared as the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. At the
White House Rose Garden on November 2, 1983, U.S. President Ronald Reagan signed
a bill creating a federal holiday to honor King. It was observed for the first
time on January 20, 1986 and is called Martin Luther King Day. It is observed on
the third Monday of January each year, around the time of King's birthday. In
January 17, 2000, for the first time, Martin Luther King Day was officially
observed in all 50 U.S. states.
This is one of three federal holidays dedicated to an individual American and
the only one dedicated to an African American.
Many U.S. cities have officially renamed one of their streets to honor King.
King County, Washington rededicated its name in honor of King in 1986. The city
government center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is the only city hall in the
United States to be named in honor of King.
In 1998, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity was authorized by the United States
Congress to establish a foundation to manage fund raising and design of a Martin
Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. King was a prominent member of Alpha Phi
Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African
Americans. King will be the first African American honored with his own memorial
in the National Mall area and the second non-President to be commemorated in
such a way. The King Memorial will be administered by the National Park Service.
King is one of the ten 20th-century martyrs from across the world who are
depicted in statues above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey, London.
There are a few interesting stories on King in Hamilton Jordan's book, No
Such Thing As A Bad Day.
Coin redesign advocates have asked that King's image be placed on the penny
or dime. The penny will be permanently redesigned in 2010, and the current
design will no longer be issued beyond 2008, but Abraham Lincoln will remain on
the coin. A group of civil rights activists attempted unsuccessfully in 2000 to
place his image on the half dollar. Beforehand, these same people also attempted
several times to place King's image on the twenty dollar bill.
God Bless You Mr. King!! You was the greatest man alivee!! If it wasn't for you,
i wouldn't have my bestfriend Quentin. He's not my color but i still love him!!
He's my bestfriend!!((: Your NEVER forgotten. R.I.P. Rest In Peace!!
i love u for getting black's and white's together....lol
Martin Luther King was the man love ya
I LOVE HIM!!!!!!!!!!!
HE WAS OUR KING WE WILL NEVA 4GET HIM
He was the greatest man that ever lived, may his soul rest in peace and God
almighty bless his family
i love to be like MLK and i always choose him in my subject when ever i have to
write about any leader god bless u
best man that ever lived... Rev. Martin Luther King... RIP
Thanks, Mr. King, for doing what you did, because if you didn't, I wouldn't have
my two best friends right now.
Mr. King I want to thank you for everything you helped this world be
Martin Luther King is the greatest man in the 20th century! Him and Malcolm are
martin luther king was a very inspiring man and rip god bless you
Martin Luther King was a great and honorable man who cared so much for everyone
else that he was willing to die for them......Gad may you let his soul rest in
peace and keep his family safe.
Thank you for our freedom
You were and you will always be the civil right leader "god bless you
thank you to having existed MLK!!!
one of the greatest man!!!
MARTIN LUTHER KING!!!
mlk was the greatest, most respected man to so many people during his years,
and it remains the same to day. I don't know what I would be doing right now if
he didn't come around, thank you so much Dr. Martin Luther King, you will always
be remembered, ill make sure of that, R.I.P to the greatest man that ever
Martin Luther King was a great man. He did all he could to make everyone equal.
I really do respect this man. Martin Luther King rest in peace
I think Martin Luther King was very brave man. Who ever killed
him should be very ashamed. My motto is, well someone made it up at primary
school, 'no matter what you are going through someone will be there for you' it
doesn't matter if you are white, black ,blue, yellow, any colour, God was happy
for you, so just think before you do and be proud of Martin Luther King
i have a dream that one day my children will be judged not by
the colour of their skin
What a Great Leader he Was....yes indeed a great Leader!
Each time I am feeling totally down, i always remember the
word " I HAVE A DREAM", which makes me more stronger and ambitious
martin luther king made the world a better place to live in
and now we are all considered equal. let him rest in peace and bless all our
souls. he will not be forgotten. R.I.P.
Amazing man, we should all follow in his footsteps
this man was a hero to all
You were the greatest!
God please Mr.King Rest in peace Mr.King bless your soul and