FBI-King Suicide Letter

A nearly unredacted copy of the "suicide letter" sent to Martin Luther King Jr.[a]

The FBI-King suicide letter or blackmail package was an anonymous 1964 letter and package by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) meant to blackmail Martin Luther King Jr.[1] The phrase "You Are Done" is a noted warning from the letter.[1]

History

On November 21, 1964, a package that contained the letter and a tape recording allegedly of King's sexual indiscretions was delivered to Coretta Scott King, and later to Martin Luther King Jr. Although the letter was anonymously written, Martin Luther King Jr. correctly suspected the FBI sent the package.[2][1] Coretta Scott King described the tapes by saying "I couldn't make much out of it, it was just a lot of mumbo jumbo."[3] The letter does not specify precisely what action it is urging King to undertake; King understood the letter as advocating that he commit suicide,[1] although some have suggested that it was merely urging him to decline the Nobel prize[4] or step out of leadership.[1]

On March 8, 1971, an activist group called the Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI burglarized a local office of the FBI in Media, Pennsylvania and stole classified documents. Part of those documents revealed a secret FBI operation called COINTELPRO. Those documents were later sent to newspapers and members of the United States Congress. During the Church Committee hearings and investigations in 1975, a copy of the "suicide letter" was discovered in the work files of William C. Sullivan, deputy FBI director.[5] He has been suggested as its author.[6][1] Once the surveillance tapes of King were publicly revealed, Bernard Lee and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) sought to have tapes gained by wiretaps destroyed in a lawsuit.[7] Their request was denied by United States District Court for the District of Columbia judge John Lewis Smith Jr.[7] He ordered all tapes sealed until the year 2027 and placed into the National Archives and Records Administration.[7]

Since 1977, attempts have been made to release the recordings in the United States Congress. Republican Senator Jesse Helms from North Carolina in 1983 sought to reveal information about King in order to undermine the establishment of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day.[8] The Martin Luther King Jr. Records Collection bill has been introduced in Congress by Democratic Representative Cynthia McKinney from Georgia in 2002 and 2005, by Democratic Senator John Kerry from Massachusetts in 2006, and by Democratic Representative John Lewis from Georgia in 2010, but the bill was never passed by Congress.

A copy of the letter is known to exist in J. Edgar Hoover's confidential files at the National Archives.[1]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ The New York Times obscured the name of a person stated in the letter as involved with King because the Times could not verify the claim.[1]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Gage, Beverly (November 11, 2014). "What an Uncensored Letter to M.L.K. Reveals". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 2017.
  2. ^ Powers 2004, p. 246.
  3. ^ Dyson, p. 217.
  4. ^ Powers 2004, pp. 246f.
  5. ^ Powers 2004, p. 290.
  6. ^ Powers 2004, p. 245.
  7. ^ a b c "Judge Orders Seal on King Wiretaps". Deseret News. United Press International (UPI). February 1, 1977.
  8. ^ Romero, Frances (January 18, 2010). "A Brief History Of: Martin Luther King Jr. Day". Time. Retrieved 2016.

Bibliography

Further reading


  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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