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FBI Releases 16,659 Page File on Martin Luther King

Kyle Quinn-Quesada

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In an unprecedented act of declassification, the FBI file on the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. has been released by a freedom of information act request. The entire file, which spans 16,659 pages, had originally only been available at the FBI archives reading room at the J. Edgar Hoover FBI building in Washington DC. The entire file made up of 121 separate files is now on the FBI’s website in PDF form.

The file, which gives an alarmingly intimate look at the personal life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is made up of interviews, surveillance, and wire taps the FBI had conducted on the Reverend and people close to him. At the time the FBI believed that the civil rights movement led by Dr. King was a communist plot aimed at destabilizing the United States.

The FBI’s pursuit of King increased after the momentous March on Washington where Dr. King gave the famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Concluding the speech, an FBI memo declared Dr. King the “most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country.”

The FBI had begun to covertly track King’s close business and personal associates. In 1963, the then notorious FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover requested a warrant to tap the Reverend’s homes, offices and phones.

After the agency’s surveillance came up empty with regards to communism, the bureau decided to reveal details of King’s infidelity and other transgressions to the public to further undermine him. With the release of these memos it has become increasingly clear that J. Edgar Hoover had become obsessed with discrediting Dr. King in any way, shape or form.

When Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1964 it was too much for Hoover to bear and he had the FBI draft a letter to the Reverend detailing everything they knew about his sexual transgressions with the hope that he would commit suicide. “You are a colossal fraud and an evil, vicious one at that.” The draft had said, “The American public … will know you for what you are, an evil, abnormal beast,” and “Satan could not do more.”

Once again hinting that there was only one way out for the Reverend, the letter went on to say, “King, there is only one thing left for you to do.” The letter concluded, “You know what it is … You better take it before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation.” After his death on April 4, 1968, the FBI still recorded some of his close associates, but the file was closed shortly thereafter.

If you would like to review the FBI file on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. it is now available to the public free of charge, go to for further information.

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The Student News Source of the University of New Haven
FBI Releases 16,659 Page File on Martin Luther King