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Martin Luther King, Jr. - Threats/attacks against

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began monitoring Martin Luther King, Jr., in December 1955, during his involvement with the Montgomery bus boycott, and engaged in covert operations against him throughout the 1960s. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover was personally hostile toward King, believing that the civil rights leader was influenced by Communists. This animosity increased after April 1964, when King called the FBI “completely ineffectual in resolving the continued mayhem and brutality inflicted upon the Negro in the deep South” (King, 23 April 1964). Under the FBI’s domestic counterintelligence program (COINTELPRO) King was subjected to various kinds of FBI surveillance that produced alleged evidence of extramarital affairs, though no evidence of Communist influence.

Chicago Campaign

On 7 January 1966, Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) announced plans for the Chicago Freedom Movement, a campaign that marked the expansion of their civil rights activities from the South to northern cities. King believed that “the moral force of SCLC’s nonviolent movement philosophy was needed to help eradicate a vicious system which seeks to further colonize thousands of Negroes within a slum environment” (King, 18 March 1966). King and his family moved to one such Chicago slum at the end of January so that he could be closer to the movement.

Burroughs, Nannie Helen

Nannie Helen Burroughs was an educator, religious leader, and social activist who helped found the Women’s Auxiliary of the National Baptist Convention (NBC). In August 1954 she invited Martin Luther King, Jr., the young son of her friends, Martin Luther King, Sr., and Alberta Williams King, to address the Women’s Auxiliary on “The Vision of the World Made New.” In a letter to King, Jr., thanking him for his speech, she wrote: “What your message did to their thinking and to their faith is ‘bread cast upon the water’ that will be seen day by day in their good works in their communities” (Papers 2:296).

Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

At 6:05 p.m. on Thursday, 4 April 1968, Martin Luther King was shot dead while standing on a balcony outside his second-floor room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. News of King’s assassination prompted major outbreaks of racial violence, resulting in more than 40 deaths nationwide and extensive property damage in over 100 American cities. James Earl Ray, a 40-year-old escaped fugitive, later confessed to the crime and was sentenced to a 99-year prison term. During King’s funeral a tape recording was played in which King spoke of how he wanted to be remembered after his death: “I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others” (King, “Drum Major Instinct,” 85).

From John Malcolm Patterson

Alabama governor John Patterson demands that King publish a retraction of the 'false and defamatory" statements in a 29 March 1960 fund-raising appeal titled "Heed Their Rising Voices." 1 The text of the advertisement detailed the conditions that King and student protesters faced and criticized "the Southern violators" who "have answered Dr. King's peaceful protests with intimidation and violence."


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