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When the FBI Tried to Make MLK Commit Suicide

As the nation celebrated Martin Luther King Day on Monday, Danielle Cadet gave an important reminder of the dangers of illegal surveillance by the government and the nefarious uses it can be put to, recalling how the FBI bugged King’s home and office and used information it gained to try to make him commit suicide.

In an effort to prove he was under Communist influence, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover spent significant resources monitoring King’s movements and eavesdropping on his communications. Attorney General Robert Kennedy gave consent, allowing the organization to break into King’s office and home installing phone taps and bugs to track the leader’s movements and conversations as well as those of his associates. Although the recordings did not reveal any association with the Communist Party, they did reveal extensive details about his extramarital affairs.

After learning King would be the recipient of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, Hoover took his fanatical obsession with obliterating King to the next level. Agents sent the reverend an anonymous note, chastising him for his affairs and implying that he should commit suicide.

You can read the letter here. Here’s the text:


In view of your low grade… I will not dignify your name with either a Mr. or a Reverend or a Dr. And, your last name calls to mind only the type of King such as King Henry the VIII…

King, look into your heart. You know you are a complete fraud and a great liability to all of us Negroes. White people in this country have enough frauds of their own but I am sure they don’t have one at this time anywhere near your equal. You are no clergyman and you know it. I repeat you are a colossal fraud and an evil, vicious one at that. You could not believe in God… Clearly you don’t believe in any personal moral principles.

King, like all frauds your end is approaching. You could have been our greatest leader. You, even at an early age have turned out to be not a leader but a dissolute, abnormal moral imbecile. We will now have to depend on our older leaders like Wilkins, a man of character and thank God we have others like him. But you are done. Your “honorary” degrees, your Nobel Prize (what a grim farce) and other awards will not save you. King, I repeat you are done.

No person can overcome facts, not even a fraud like yourself… I repeat — no person can argue successfully against facts… Satan could not do more. What incredible evilness… King you are done.

The American public, the church organizations that have been helping — Protestant, Catholic and Jews will know you for what you are — an evil, abnormal 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 it (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, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation.

Sometimes people wonder why I don’t trust the government with the power to engage in surveillance without a warrant. This is why. It’s all too easy for them to use it against those they deem their political enemies.


  1. matty1 says

    What was the significance of 34 days, was the letter sent exactly 34 days before the Nobel prizegiving?

  2. colnago80 says

    That’s really rich coming from a closeted gay man like Hoover who was living as man and wife with his closest aide, Clyde Tolson.

  3. says

    Big fucking deal. Women and girls get pretty similar treatment online from hateful anonymous pond-scum every day, without having done even one percent of what King did.

  4. Scr... Archivist says

    I wonder when we will be allowed to see the paragraphs of that letter that were redacted.


    matty1 @1,

    The “Letters of Note” blog post says this letter was sent in November 1964. And according to the Nobel website, the presentation speech for King’s award was delivered by the Chairman of the Nobel Committee on December 10. You may be right.

  5. colnago80 says

    Re Raging Bee @ #3

    Except that the anonymous pond scum don’t have the power, like J. Edger Himmler did, to actually affect the lives of those women. They don’t plant bugs on their telephones or in their residences. They don’t have the power to arrest them and subject them to legal harassment. They’re almost invariably hot air, unlike J. Edger.

  6. garnetstar says

    Wow, that letter sure would have pushed me over the edge.

    As Raging Bee says, the FBI could’ve learned how to really make people live in fear and to discourage people from standing up for themselves from internet pond scum, who are much better at it.

    Calling Raging Bee names only proves her/his point.

  7. says

    Except that the anonymous pond scum don’t have the power, like J. Edger Himmler did, to actually affect the lives of those women.

    Yes, actually they do, and they’ve used it, sometimes to greater effect than Hoover got WRT King. Have you not been paying attention to any of the recent incidences of orchestrated misogyny, rape-threats, death-threats, and doxxing of uppity females since (AFAIK) 2011 and probably much earlier?

  8. colnago80 says

    Re Raging Bee @ #10

    As bad as that crap is, it doesn’t come close to bugging phones, implanting listening and video devices or arresting people and throwing them in the slammer.

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