|Martin Luther King and J Edgar Hoover|
Civil rights leader was urged to kill himself over ‘sexual orgies' with 'evil playmates'
The graphic contents of an anonymous letter in which the Federal Bureau of Investigation called Martin Luther King a “filthy abnormal animal” have been made public for the first time.
Written in 1964 by a deputy of the feared FBI chief J Edgar Hoover posing as a disillusioned civil rights activist, the typewritten note appears to have been a heavy-handed attempt to blackmail King into taking his own life.
Already a notorious footnote in American history, the “suicide letter” was heavily censored when it was first published, with most of its more outrageous language remaining secret.
However, the full contents of the note have now been made public after a Beverly Gage, a historian from Yale University unearthed an unredacted copy in the National Archive while researching a book on Hoover.
It shows that in his attempt to goad King, William Sullivan, the agent identified as the author of the letter, stooped to the use of near-hysterical sexual slurs against the already-revered pastor, who would go on to be assassinated three years later.
It was accompanied by a cassette recording containing evidence of King’s now well documented extramarital liaisons, which the FBI had obtained by wiretapping his homes and hotel rooms.
Employing deliberate misspellings and awkward constructions, it reads: “Lend your sexually psychotic ear to the enclosure.
“You will find yourself in all your dirt, filth, evil and moronic talk exposed on the record for all time …
“You will find on the record for all time your filthy, dirty, evil companions, male and females giving expression with you to your hidious [sic] abnormalities.
“It is all there on the record, your sexual orgies. Listen to yourself you filthy, abnormal animal.
“You are on the record. You have been on the record – all your adulterous acts, your sexual orgies extending far into the past. This one is but a tiny sample.
“You will understand this. Yes, from your various evil playmates on the east coast to [name redacted] and others on the west coast and outside the country, you are on the record. King you are done.”
The letter opens by comparing King to Henry VII, going on, in a section withheld from the public until now: “…and his countless acts of adultery and immoral conduct lower than that of a beast.”
It concludes by apparently urging King to take his own life within 34 days – thought to be a reference to a date on which he was due to collect the Nobel Peace Prize in Sweden.
“There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation.”
In the event, the letter was opened by King’s long-suffering wife Coretta, and he did not read it until his return.
King showed the letter to his advisers, who agreed that it was clearly the work of the FBI and a blatant attempt to blackmail him into taking his own life.
A 1976 Senate hearing into the dirty tricks campaigns conducted by the FBI and other intelligence agencies concurred, concluding that the letter “clearly implied that suicide would be a suitable course of action for Dr King”.
The note was part of a personal vendetta Hoover held against King, after the latter accused the FBI of failing to protect black people in the Deep South.
It seems to have been a final desperate attempt to make use of the recordings, which had already been offered to several newspapers. To Hoover’s chagrin they refused to run the story.
In an article about her find in the New York Times Magazine, Prof Gage said: “One oddity of Hoover’s campaign against King is that it mostly flopped, and the FBI never succeeded in seriously damaging King’s public image.
“Half a century later, we look upon King as a model of moral courage and human dignity. Hoover, by contrast, has become almost universally reviled.
“In this context, perhaps the most surprising aspect of their story is not what the FBI attempted, but what it failed to do.”
1 If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,
2 And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;
3 Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
4 Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.
5 And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.
21 Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished: but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered.