1963 October 15

FBI Distributes Report on Martin Luther King’s Alleging Communist Ties


The FBI on this day circulated a report on alleged Communist influence in the civil rights movement that had as its major focus an attack on Dr. Martin Luther King. The report was so biased and racist that it alarmed members of President John Kennedy’s administration, who ordered that all copies be withdrawn two weeks later, on October 28. Assistant Attorney General Burke Marshall later told the Senate Church Committee (January 27, 1975) that the report was “a personal diatribe . . . a personal attack without evidentiary support . . . .” Assistant FBI Director Alan Belmont had described the report as “good reading,” conceding that it “may startle the Attorney General [Robert F. Kennedy].”

The report was only one of a series of attacks on the civil rights movement, and a vendetta against King in particular, by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. These attacks escalated over the next few years. On December 23, 1963, the Bureau formulated a plan to “neutralize” King and, on January 5, 1964, it placed the first of a series of intrusive listening devices (“bugs”) in hotel rooms occupied by King. On November 21, 1964, the FBI sent to King and his wife a vicious tape recording consisting of sounds the FBI alleged involved King in extramarital sexual relations.

Read the Senate Church Committee report on the FBI’s vendetta against King (79–184): http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/contents/church/contents_church_reports_book3.htm

Learn more about the FBI’s vendetta against King: Read: David Garrow, The FBI and Martin Luther King, Jr. (1981)

Learn more about race and the FBI: Kenneth O’Reilly, Racial Matters: The FBI’s Secret File on Black America, 1960-1972 (1989)

Read the monumental Three-Volume biography of Dr. King by Taylor Branch: Parting the Waters (1988); Pillar of Fire (1998); At Canaan’s Edge (2006)

Read: Athan Theoharis, The FBI & American Democracy: A Brief Critical History (2004)

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