"The most dangerous and effective Negro leader"

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  1. Polimom,
    That J Edgar Hoover might have been “passing” is a new one to me! However, the FBI and JEH had some reasons to be concerned about Martin Luther King and Communism.
    MLK had several close advisers and allies with documented histories of membership in the Communist party of the USA. For example, Bayard Rustin, Howard Thurman, and Stanley Levinson were all former members of the Communist party, though they had all severed their connections to the party by the late 1950s. See also King and the FBI in Wikipedia for an interesting bit of background. With all that smoke, no doubt they were sure there must be some fire there.
    No doubt JEH feared MLK’s influence in the “Negro” community, especially once MLK came out in favor of civil disobedience and against the Vietnam war. In retrospect, the real risk was that with so many former Communists advising him, MLK’s rhetoric and goals might have shifted towards those of the Communists.
    However, in trying to find some way–any way–to discredit MLK, the FBI moved well beyond watching for criminal behavior and into trying to steer domestic politics in a direction (i.e. towards stasis) that its Director favored. It is a permanent stain on the organization’s record, and a cautionary tale for us all to this day.

  2. My son just finished writing a paper about the Black Panthers. The FBI thought everyone was communist-influenced: the Black Panthers, the student movement, MLK Jr., the hippies, all Vietnam war protesters. The FBI launched the COINTELPRO effort to infiltrate and undermine all subversive movements. It became pretty clear to me, in looking over my son’s research, that the FBI and / or local police forces assasinated quite a few people during this period, including Fred Hampton, a Black Panther leader. The FBI attempted to get spies into many well known groups, the Weathermen, the Black Panthers, the SDS, etc., with a great deal of success.
    There was some rational reason to think these groups might be connected with the Soviet Union, or China. Their rhetoric certainly pointed in this direction. The Soviet Union and North Vietnam were not blind to the fact that the student movement was quite a political problem for the US administration. But in the case of the Black Panthers, the linkage did not get much beyond rhetoric.
    I was pretty surprised at all this stuff, the same kind of thing as transpired in Argentina in the Dirty War, albeit on a much lower scale.

  3. How interesting that CNN is also carrying a story on how the FBI wants more funding to fight its “war on terrorism”. I guess we have learned nothing from history…

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