1956 October 24

J. Edgar Hoover Warns Eisenhower of Communist Infiltration of Civil Rights Movement


FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover waged a long, vicious, often illegal, and partly secret campaign against the civil rights movement. On this day, he warned President Dwight D. Eisenhower about Communist infiltration of the movement. He also had the Bureau prepare a report, “The Communist Party and the Negro.” Eisenhower needed little persuading, since he never fully supported civil rights. Apart from a few African-American Party members, the Communist Party never made any headway with the civil rights movement.

The FBI’s most notorious effort was its vendetta against Rev. Martin Luther King. On December 23, 1963, the FBI adopted a plan to “neutralize” him as a civil rights leader. And on November 21, 1964, it distributed an anonymous letter to King and his wife, which included a tape recording purporting to document King having extramarital affairs. The letter strongly suggested to King that he commit suicide. The notorious letter is current sealed under court order and not available to researchers.

Learn more about Eisenhower and civil rights at the Eisenhower Presidential Library: http://www.eisenhower.archives.gov/research/online_documents.html

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

Watch J. Edgar Hoover warn about Communism: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=br_UafHC-IM

Learn more about Hoover and the civil rights movement: David J. Garrow, The FBI and Martin Luther King, Jr. (1981)

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