Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

In 1964 the FBI Martin Luther King this letter urging him to kill himself (photos)

Share this:

FIFTY ears ago today Martin Luther King delivered his I Have A Dream speech. His address to 250,000 civil-rights supporters, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, was a defining moment of the American civil rights movement.

In November of 1964, fearful of his connection to the Communist Partythrough Stanley Levison, the FBI anonymously sent Martin Luther King the following threatening letter, along with a cassette that contained allegedly incriminating audio recordings of King with women in various hotel rooms — the fruits of a 9 month surveillance project headed by William C. Sullivan.Unsurprisingly, King saw the strongly worded letter as an invitation for him to take his own life, as did an official investigation in 1976 which concluded that the letter “clearly implied that suicide would be a suitable course of action for Dr. King.”

martin luther king threat

Transcript

KING,

In view of your low grade… I will not dignify your name with either a Mr. or a Reverend or a Dr. And, your last name calls to mind only the type of King such as King Henry the VIII…

King, look into your heart. You know you are a complete fraud and a great liability to all of us Negroes. White people in this country have enough frauds of their own but I am sure they don’t have one at this time anywhere near your equal. You are no clergyman and you know it. I repeat you are a colossal fraud and an evil, vicious one at that. You could not believe in God… Clearly you don’t believe in any personal moral principles.

King, like all frauds your end is approaching. You could have been our greatest leader. You, even at an early age have turned out to be not a leader but a dissolute, abnormal moral imbecile. We will now have to depend on our older leaders like Wilkins, a man of character and thank God we have others like him. But you are done. Your “honorary” degrees, your Nobel Prize (what a grim farce) and other awards will not save you. King, I repeat you are done.

No person can overcome facts, not even a fraud like yourself… I repeat — no person can argue successfully against facts… Satan could not do more. What incredible evilness… King you are done.

The American public, the church organizations that have been helping — Protestant, Catholic and Jews will know you for what you are — an evil, abnormal beast. So will others who have backed you. You are done.

King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. You have just 34 days in which to do it (this exact number has been selected for a specific reason, it has definite practical significance). You are done. There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation.

"I have a dream..." Washington, 28. August 1963. 200 000 Menschen nehmen an einem "Marsch auf Washington" teil. Der Protestmarsch richtet sich gegen die Rassendiskrimierung und fuer die Gewaehrung von Buergerrechten fuer die Schwarzen in den Vereinigten Staaten. Auf dem Foto haelt der Buergerrechtler Martin Luther King seine beruehmte Rede "I have a dream..." am Lincoln Memorial in Washington. (AP-Photo) 28 .8.1963

“I have a dream…” Washington, 28. August 1963.

Arial view of the masses who crowd the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, USA, in their freedom march during the historic speach of Dr. Martin Luther King "I Have A Dream" August 28, 1963. (AP Photo/Str) --- Martin Luther King, Baptist, Bue?rgerrechtler, Marsch der Bue?rgerrechtler auf Washington : King bei seiner historischen Rede "I Have a Dream" am Lincoln Memorial, Blick von oben auf die Teilnehmer am 28. August, 1963. (AP Photo/Str)

Arial view of the masses who crowd the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, USA, in their freedom march during the historic speach of Dr. Martin Luther King “I Have A Dream” August 28, 1963.

This general view shows civil rights demonstrators gathered at the Washington Monument grounds before noon on Aug. 28, 1963. The marchers will parade to the Lincoln Memorial, seen in the far background at right, where the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom will end with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech. (AP Photo)

This general view shows civil rights demonstrators gathered at the Washington Monument grounds before noon on Aug. 28, 1963.

 

** -- FILE ** In this Aug. 28, 1963, black-and-white file photo Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, addresses marchers during his "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. The 45th anniversary of the iconic leader's most memorable speech coincides with the day when another African-American leader, Barack Obama, is scheduled to makes a historic speech of his own _ accepting the Democratic Party's nomination for president of the United States Aug. 28, 2008, in Denver, Colo. (AP Photo/File)

**ADVANCE FOR THURSDAY, FEB. 12** In this Aug. 28, 1963 file photo, President Kennedy poses at the White House with a group of leaders of the March on Washington. From left, Whitney Young, National Urban League; Dr. Martin Luther King, Christian Leadership Conference; John Lewis, Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee; Rabbi Joachim Prinz, American Jewish Congress; Dr. Eugene P. Donnaly, National Council of Churches; A. Philip Randolph, AFL-CIO vice president; Kennedy; Walter Reuther, Unidted Auto Workers; Vice-President Johnson, rear, and Roy Wilkins, NAACP. (AP Photo, file)

In this Aug. 28, 1963 file photo, President Kennedy poses at the White House with a group of leaders of the March on Washington. From left, Whitney Young, National Urban League; Dr. Martin Luther King, Christian Leadership Conference; John Lewis, Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee; Rabbi Joachim Prinz, American Jewish Congress; Dr. Eugene P. Donnaly, National Council of Churches; A. Philip Randolph, AFL-CIO vice president; Kennedy; Walter Reuther, Unidted Auto Workers; Vice-President Johnson, rear, and Roy Wilkins, NAACP. (AP Photo, file)

FILE - This Aug. 28, 1963, file photo shows Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. acknowledging the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial for his "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington. Next Wednesday, the nation’s first black president will stand near the spot where Martin Luther King Jr. stood 50 years ago, a living symbol of the racial progress King dreamed about, and enunciate where he believes this nation should be headed. (AP Photo/File)

This Aug. 28, 1963, file photo shows Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. acknowledging the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial for his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington.

SpotterDavid J. Garrow, ‘The FBI and Martin Luther King, Jr.’ (New York, 1981), pp. 125‑126); LettersofNote