April 1, 2008
FBI wiretaps have “given us the most powerful and persuasive source of all for seeing how utterly selfless Martin Luther King was,” as a civil rights leader, according to a leading civil rights scholar.
“You see him being intensely self-critical. King really and truly believed that he was there to be of service to others. This was not a man with any egomaniacal joy of being a famous person, or being a leader,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning scholar David Garrow in a recent interview with CNN.
Hoping to prove the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was under the influence of Communists, the FBI kept the civil rights leader under constant surveillance.
The agency’s hidden tape recorders turned up almost nothing about communism.
But they did reveal embarrassing details about King’s sex life — details the FBI was able to use against him.
The almost fanatical zeal with which the FBI pursued King is disclosed in tens of thousands of FBI memos from the 1960s.
The FBI paper trail spells out in detail the government agency’s concerted efforts to derail King’s efforts on behalf of the civil rights movement.
The FBI’s interest in King intensified after the March on Washington in August 1963, when King delivered his “I have a dream speech,” which many historians consider the most important speech of the 20th century. After the speech, an FBI memo called King the “most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country.”