MLK/FBI (2020) Movie Script

At this time I have the honour
to present to you,
the moral leader of our nation.
From 1955 to 1968,
Martin Luther King led a peaceful
20th century American revolution.
In the short span of 13 years,
the non violent Civil Rights Movement
which he headed changed
the face of American society.
You know,
when you construct a man
as a great man, there's nothing
almost more satisfying
than also seeing him
represented as the opposite.
When the National Archives,
puts government documents
up on the web in public,
one has to confront them.
One cannot pretend they don't exist.
I think one of the difficulties
for historians in dealing
with really the fruits
of all of this surveillance
of King is whether or not
we then become complicit
in what the FBI was doing.
You know this about humans,
what we're best at is convincing ourselves
of our own righteousness.
And I think this entire episode
represents the darkest part
of the bureau's history.
Tapes from the hotel rooms,
uh. the FBI reports of what was going on.
those are pieces of information
that we shouldn't have.
Whatever comes out will certainly help us
understand him as a person
and that's kind of our,
our duty is to understand.
Lord, don't move the mountain
Give me the strength to climb
Lord, don't move
My stumbling blocks
But lead me all around
Lord, don't move the mountain
Give me the strength to climb
Lord, don't move
My stumbling blocks
But lead me all around
The way may not be easy
You didn't say, Lord, that it would be
For when our tribulations
Get too light
We tend to stray from Thee
Have mercy
Please don't move the mountain
Just give me strength to climb
Lord don't move
My stumbling block
But lead your child
All around
In the traditional motion picture story,
the villains are usually defeated,
the ending is a happy one.
I can make no such promise for the picture
you're about to watch.
The story isn't over.
They came
from Los Angeles and San Francisco,
or about the distance
from Moscow to Bombay.
We're almost there.
They came
from Cleveland, from Chicago,
or about the distance from Buenos Aires
to Rio de Janeiro.
They came from Jackson, Mississippi,
from Birmingham, Alabama,
or about the distance
from Johannesburg to Darussalam.
Hi. Hello. Hi.
He had been insulted,
beaten, jailed, drenched
with water, chased by dogs,
but he was coming to Washington,
he said, to swallow up hatred in love,
to overcome violence by peaceful protest.
We are not going to fight
our white brethren with malice
nor are we going to fight them
with any falsified stories,
nor are we going to fight them
with hatred,
but we're going to fight them with love.
When they hate us, we gonna
solve their hatred in love.
When they speak against us,
we gonna speak things of love toward them.
We are not gonna let
their hatred turn us around,
but we gonna love them on every side.
We had been
through the battles in Birmingham.
We thought that was the movement.
And it was.
But after it was over, we realised
that what had happened was
that the March on Washington
took a Black southern movement
and turned it into a national
and international movement
for human rights.
One day right there in Alabama,
little Black boys and Black girls
will be able to join hands
with little white boys
and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
The FBI was most alarmed about King
because of his success.
And they were particularly concerned
that he was this powerful
charismatic figure
who had the ability to mobilise people.
And if America is to be a great nation,
this must become true.
So let freedom ring.
When you look at the social movements
from the point of view of the FBI,
it looks very different.
You know, J. Edgar Hoover
is famous for saying
that he feared the rise
of a Black messiah.
Free at last.
Free at last. Thank God Almighty,
we are free at last.
After Dr. King gave his famous
March on Washington speech,
Wednesday, August 28th 1963...
in a memo dated the 30th of August,
no later than that,
the second person in the FBI,
it may have been Sullivan,
sends a urgent memo in which he says,
"After the March on Washington, it's clear
"that Martin Luther King Jr.
is the most dangerous Negro in America."
"And we have to use every resource
at our disposal to destroy him."
Let me hear you say,
- Freedom!
- Let me hear you say,
1956, 20,000 Blacks
walked the streets of Montgomery, Alabama
to protest segregation on city buses.
The Montgomery bus boycott focuses
national attention on its leader,
a 27-year-old Baptist minister,
Martin Luther King Junior.
Is this just a test
that you're getting ready for?
That's what we're doing.
The next one will be for real.
I'm sure that I voice the sentiment
of the more than 40,000
Negro citizens of Montgomery.
We still have the attitude of love,
we still have the method
of passive resistance
and we are still insisting,
emphatically that violence
is self-defeating,
that he who live by the sword
would perish by the sword.
He let us accept the fact,
and made us accept the fact,
that what we were doing was insane.
He'd say, you've got to be
certifiably insane
to think that a bunch of crazy young folks,
like you all,
With no money,
no guns, no political power,
are gonna change this nation.
We were trusting in the power of God,
and only kind of crazy people of faith
would be willing to put
their lives on the line and,
and trust in God.
In an era of science and technology,
ambiguous spiritual phenomena
like moral power...
you know, it didn't make sense.
This morning,
the long-awaited mandate
from the United States Supreme Court
came to Montgomery.
Segregation in public transportation
is both legally
and sociologically invalid.
In the light of this mandate,
the Negro citizens of Montgomery are urged
to return to the buses tomorrow morning
on a non-segregated basis.
As the boycott wins in the United States
Supreme Court come the end of 1956,
Civil Rights activists take
a strong interest
in this unprecedented community action,
in the capital of the old confederacy.
Now, one of the most
important of those long-time
civil rights activists
who took a real interest
in Montgomery was Bayard Rustin,
and it's through Rustin
that Stanley Levison meets Dr. King.
Stanley David Levison...
was white.
He was Jewish. He was a lawyer,
he was a certified public accountant,
an unsung hero
in the civil rights movement
as related to Martin Luther King Jr.
And Dr. King adored him.
From 1955 forward, the FBI takes
some degree of interest in local
Black protest movements in the south,
in Montgomery, in Birmingham,
in Nashville, Tennessee.
But it's standard FBI vacuum cleaner
information gathering.
They're not particularly focused
on Martin Luther King, Jr.
in those middle and late 1950 years.
Even though Stanley Levison and King
have a very close
personal relationship from 1957 forward,
only at the very beginning of 1962,
four, five years later,
does the FBI tardily realise
that Levison, has become
a very important advisor to King.
I always tell people I was strolling down
the student union one day,
and the bureau had a table there
and they were recruiting,
so I filled out the application,
and, lo and behold,
uh, a week later I get a phone call.
They told me that they will accept me
if I pass the physical.
On my uh, gosh, 21st birthday,
I was driving my car to Washington D.C.,
took an oath of office and, uh,
almost quit that day because it was just,
very surreal.
They were talking
about when the bomb goes off,
where to go, and stuff like that,
I'm thinking,
"This is like out of a movie."
The new FBI will not be the product
of one individual.
No one man can build it,
but one man can pull it down.
There were two big themes that came across
in the popular culture that was produced
about the FBI.
One of those was crime,
and the other was the struggle
against communism.
Sometime in 1962,
Levison got a subpoena,
from the House Un-American
Activities Committee.
And he was really...
I don't wanna say petrified,
but he was very concerned.
Are you now
or have your ever been a member
of the Communist Party?
I stand on my constitutional rights
under the 5th Amendment.
It was an old saying
that once you're a member
of the Communist Party,
you're always a member
of the Communist Party.
That's what everybody believed.
And it's pretty clear,
in fact, that Stanley Levison
was deeply involved
in Communist politics in the 1950's.
He had dropped off the radar
but even after he went totally
off the grid, if you will,
and when the relationship
with Dr. King started,
they would still get reports from people
inside the Communist party
of what Levison was doing.
The concern with Dr. King
and his connections with Stanley Levison
was that he was being influenced
by the Communist Party.
The growing
menace of communism
arouses the House of Representatives
Unamerican Activities Committee.
Among the well informed
witnesses testifying
is J. Edgar Hoover,
head of the Federal Bureau
of Investigation.
Mr. Hoover speaks
with authority on the subject.
The Communist Party of the United States
is a fifth column if there ever was one.
It is far better organised
than were the Nazis
in occupied countries
prior to their capitulation.
They are seeking to weaken America.
Their goal is the overthrow
of our government.
To some people,
J. Edgar Hoover
was a great American,
a hero who stood up
against crime and communism.
To others, he was
a figure of profound evil
who terrified those
he disapproved of
with police powers at his command.
To everybody, he symbolised the FBI.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation
is as close to you
as your nearest telephone.
It seems to be your protector
in all manners
within its jurisdiction.
It belongs to you.
J. Edgar Hoover was the head of the FBI
for 48 years,
from 1924 to 1972,
and it's a really astounding span of time.
He went from a period in which Washington
was kind of a nothing back water
to a moment
when it was really the pinnacle
of American power,
and he helped build a lot of that.
The communists have been,
still are, and always will be a menace
to freedom,
to democratic ideals,
to the worship of God
and to America's way of life.
From the moment
that he entered government,
it was his job to figure out
who was dangerous to the country,
who was too revolutionary,
who belonged to a subversive organisation.
Hoover understood himself
really as the guardian
of the American way of life.
But he had a very particular
vision of what that meant.
He understood it, really,
as a society of certain kinds
of racial and gender hierarchies,
a society in which white men
were the natural actors,
the natural rulers.
I want to talk to you
fighting men and women
about the battle of the United States.
I think for Hoover,
particularly in his early years,
communists were in some sense
the ultimate subversives.
He saw them as disruptive
of a kind of law and order,
of a certain kind of social order.
He saw them as disruptive
on questions of race.
The Workers
Communist Party of America
puts forward correctly
as its central slogan,
"Abolition of the whole system
of race discrimination...
"...full racial, social,
and political equality
for the Negro people."
Black America was always
a particular focus
of the FBI because
there was the presumption
that Black people are somehow
more susceptible
to recruitment for a dangerous ideology.
We are all familiar with the fact
that the communists have been
agitating racial problems,
racial disunity in our nation
for the last several years.
That's the reason that you've seen
racial agitators like Martin Luther King
rise on the scene and get
all kinds of national publicity.
This was intended.
They would like nothing
more than to see a civil war
in the 1960's in the United States.
The FBI,
quite understandably, asks itself
how come has someone
who was once so important
in American communism
now turned up at the right hand
of Martin Luther King Jr.?
Within a few weeks,
the FBI goes to Attorney General
Robert F. Kennedy for Kennedy's approval
to begin wiretapping Levison at his home
and ofce in New York.
Among the most familiar words
of the founders of the republic
are those afrming
that all men are created equal
and that they are endowed
with certain rights
of which they cannot be deprived.
It is a sad shortcoming
of our history that,
while asserting these
high principles of equality,
we have never completely
lived up to them,
nor have these injustices
and discrimination
been peculiar to any one part
of our country.
How bad is
the complaint today?
After all the United States
has changed a lot, uh,
the Negros rights are protected
under the law; what exactly,
how much has this system changed
between then and now?
Well, it has changed a good deal,
urn, it is far from what it ought to be,
but, uh, I can see many,
many changes that have taken place
over the last few years.
The problem now is to move from,
from token integration to,
uh, overall integration, where it, uh,
involves more than
just a few students in a school,
more than just a few lunch counters open,
more than, uh,
gaining justice in the courts
in a few situations
but in every situation.
The next target
of the civil rights movement
was Birmingham, Alabama;
in 1963, the most segregated
city in the nation
and, for Blacks, a place to die
if you tried to be a person.
Staying calm under fire is
necessary for your survival.
It's also necessary for your success.
But it's very hard not to get emotional
when people are trying to kill you.
There is no middle ground in this fight.
There is no middle ground in this program.
You're either for us,
or you're against us,
and you've heard that said
time and time again.
Yes, my friends,
you are either for us,
or you are against us.
We were trying to reveal the truth
about segregation in the south.
I will not rest
until we are able to make
this kind of witness in this city
so that the power structure down town
will have to say,
"We can't stop this movement,
and the only way to deal with it
"is to give these people what we owe them
and what their God-given rights
and their constitutional rights demand."
In a very emotional
and volatile environment,
it was important for us to come off
as reasonable, sane, and patriotic.
Because we were.
We just wanted America to be
what America said it was supposed to be.
And they go talking about
these little levels of progress
that we see here and there, and they say,
"You know you've made great progress.
Aren't you satised?"
No, we are not satisfied.
Well, of course
I feel that the communist movement
is behind all the racial demonstrations
in this country, and, uh,
I have only-- I have a statement here
that J. Edgar Hoover made in 1958,
quote "The Negro situation is
also being exploited fully
"and continuously by communists
on a national scale
"so as to create unrest,
dissension, and confusion
in the minds of the American people."
Both Bobby Kennedy
and his brother the president,
were on record
as supporters of Dr. King,
as supporters
of the civil rights movement,
but when the FBI begins
insisting that King
is susceptible to influence
from this dangerous
Soviet-connected figure,
Robert Kennedy and, in time,
his brother the president, too,
tell him that he needs
to distance himself
and really sever
his connection with Levison.
The leaders of the march
are now coming down the Northwest
driveway of the White House.
They'll shortly be
going in to see the President.
It was June 22nd, 1963.
President Kennedy is meeting
with several civil rights leaders.
They are being led
by Walter Reuther of the UAW,
Martin Luther King, James Farmer,
Whitney Young of the Urban League.
President Kennedy,
he asked Dr. King to stay behind
and he and Dr. King
went for a walk in the Rose Garden.
And Kennedy said,
"My brother, the attorney general,
and J. Edgar Hoover,
"we have some,
we've got some bad news.
Some people you're very close to
are openly communists."
Kennedy said, "You know,
we're in this thing together
"pretty closely, you know;
if anything happens to you,
"it's gonna reflect very badly on myself
and Bobby as attorney general.
"You gotta distance yourself,
you can't have anything to do
with these people."
Even hearing it
from President Kennedy,
King is unwilling to believe
that these FBI allegations
about Levison have any real truth to them.
Dr. King, it's been alleged
that you have been slow to sever
your ties with alleged communists
in the civil rights movement,
even after government officials
have warned you against them.
The only person that they identified
and had any connection
with the southern Christian leadership
conference was removed.
Dr. King was advised again and again
to avoid getting into any public spat
with J. Edgar Hoover.
Well, this places you
in the direct opposite position
of the Director of the Federal Bureau
of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover,
who gave some testimony recently
to the contrary.
I would hope that the, the FBI would
come out and say something
that I think is much more significant,
and that is that it is amazing that
so few Negroes have turned to communism
in the light of that desperate plight.
I think it is one of the amazing
developments of the 20th century,
how loyal the Negro has
remained to America,
in spite of his long night of oppression
and discrimination.
FBI Headquarters.
When the FBI begins
wiretapping Levison,
what they're hoping to find
is evidence that he's still--
- Yes?
- --in some manner a communist agent.
- Oh, it is?
- The FBI's theory was disproven.
All right. I'll tell him. Thank you.
But at the same time,
King was less than honest
with both Robert Kennedy
and John Kennedy
in telling them that he would break off
contact with Levison.
The FBI realises
that the relationship continues
because they're wiretapping,
and they can see this all playing out.
This of course enraged the FBI.
Hoover was very upset about this
because he saw it as evidence that, um,
just as he had suspected all along,
King was lying, he was deceiving,
that there was in fact a plot,
that these ties were very close.
It really only reinforced his sense
that there was something bigger going on.
By mid-1963,
the FBI was fully aware
that King was remaining in touch
with Levison through their mutual friend,
Clarence Jones.
Drama! Thrills! Action!
The FBI in peace and war.
Tonight's story "The Fixer."
One day, I come home...
and my wife says...
"I didn't know you had arranged
for the telephone company
"to come and put in new wiring
for our phones."
I said, "What are you talking about?"
She said,
"Oh, no, they just put in
a whole new thing
into one of our closets."
I thought about it
maybe several hours later
and I said, I said,
"Ann, did they call you?"
"Yeah, they called me up.
They said they had talked to you."
And, uh...
shortly after that,
I began to think that, ah, okay...
my phone is tapped.
Just a few weeks later,
in early August of 1963,
Dr. King goes to stay
at Jones' home for a few days.
Hearing Dr. King on the Jones home wiretap
is the accidental way
by which the FBI first learns
that King has this
non-monogamous private life.
And with those intercepts of King
at Clarence Jones' home,
the Bureau's motivation shifts.
- Yes?
- O'Hara?
- Yes.
- Gaines.
Maybe I got something.
- I'll be right over.
- Great.
It's crystal clear that
what the Bureau by the end of 1963 wants
is to get recordings of King having
sexual relations with various girlfriends.
Here's the rare opportunity we promise.
Here's one of the great voices in America,
Dr. Martin Luther King.
It's rare, Doctor, that we get
a chance to see you in New York.
Are we covered?
Oh, yes, there's a microphone over there.
Uh, do you visit here often?
Oh, I'm in New York
almost every other week at least.
Quietly though.
There's always something
happening in New York,
so you can't avoid coming to New York.
You've discovered it's a fun city?
Well, I haven't,
I haven't quite discovered
that side of New York.
All right.
- Being a Baptist clergyman...
- Ah.
...they keep me involved in other areas.
- Your home is actually in Atlanta.
- Atlanta.
Atlanta, Georgia.
Have you lived there all your life?
I was born in Atlanta, and, uh,
went to school in Atlanta through college,
and then I went
to theological seminary
and graduate school
in, uh, the north.
Mrs. King.
of course, lives in Atlanta.
- Oh, yeah.
- And there are..
She was from Alabama
originally, but, uh,
All along, I have supported my husband.
Whatever happens to him, it happens to me.
- And children?
- Yes, we have four children.
Ah. What would--
What would their ages be, Doctor?
Eleven, uh, nine, six, and four.
We have two girls and two boys.
Do you have a church
at this time in Atlanta?
Yes, I am the co-pastor
of the Ebenezer Baptist Church
in Atlanta, and my father is pastor, so.
- Both you and your father?
Well, he makes it clear, uh,
sometimes consciously
and sometimes unconsciously,
that he is the pastor...
- Right.
- ...and I'm the co-pastor.
Hey, everybody.
What has
the civil rights movement
done to the Negro individually?
Well, I think the greatest thing
that it has done is that it has given
the Negro a new sense
of, uh, somebody-ness.
The Negro has straightened
his back up, so to speak, and, uh,
you can't ride a man's back
unless it's bent,
and I'm not at all pessimistic
about the future
because I think the Negro has
a kind of determination,
and I think there are numerous allies
in the white community
with the same kind of determination.
And with this kind of creative
and constructive coalition,
we can move forward, even to solve
these more difficult problems
that I have mentioned.
Welcome, ladies and gentleman,
to "Let's Look at Congress."
Today, I have a guest for you
that I know will be a great treat to see.
Congressman Keating,
I'm very happy indeed to have
this opportunity of appearing
with you on your television program.
Uh, Mr. Hoover, uh, to what extent
do you in your work use wiretapping?
That's always a question
that people wonder about.
I'm very glad that you asked me
that question, uh, Congressman Keating.
The FBI was authorised to utilise
wire taps only in those cases
involving treason or subversive
activities, sabotage and espionage.
And I can say to you as of this moment,
there are less than 90 wire taps
in the entire United States
and territories of our country.
Well, I am sure that will disabuse
many people's minds of the wide use of it.
The FBI had a sort of interesting set
of policies about surveillance.
There had been a lot of public discussion,
a lot of court cases around wiretapping,
so that's the telephone.
Often when the FBI was
gonna wiretap someone,
they had to get the authority
of the Attorney General.
That was policy.
That was more or less law.
My colleagues and I
in the Department of Justice...
are your representatives
in the Federal Court of the land.
Citing the danger of Levison
and King's apparent dishonesty...
Robert Kennedy authorises,
for the first time,
wiretaps on King himself in Atlanta.
The FBI is not really telling
Attorney General Kennedy
that it has this other agenda.
When the FBI first
started conducting
overt surveillance of King,
it really had something
of a national security logic,
or at least they presented it that way.
The theory was, there were communists
within the civil rights movement,
the Communist Party
was very tied to the Soviet Union.
But one of the things
that I think we can take from this
is how easy it is for that
to morph into something else.
As those taps
and as that surveillance really began,
the FBI found out
all sorts of things about King.
And very quickly,
while they still had some concern
with the communist question,
it begins to become
something that's much more
about King's personal life,
about him as a man,
about his sex life,
about his family,
about his confidantes,
and about really his private life.
It happened really without the approval
or authority of anyone outside of the FBI.
As soon as
the wiretap on King's home
begins in late 1963,
within weeks
the FBI begins
convening meetings to discuss
how can we further exploit
all of these extra-marital recordings?
And that is transparently
why Bill Sullivan,
as the Head of FBI Domestic Intelligence,
made the decision that the FBI
should expand its electronic surveillance
of Dr. King from just wiretapping
to also using microphones,
AKA bugs.
Sullivan's focus was collecting
salacious sexual material on King.
And the FBI had a very elaborate
and very complicated process
for getting those bugs
to the right places.
Call Blanden.
in a Willard Hotel type of situation,
the FBI and its buddies
on the hotel staff
could decide in advance what room
is Martin Luther King gonna be assigned to
and have the microphones in place.
They would set up
the bugs in his hotel rooms
and usually would take the room
either next door or downstairs somewhere,
where they could in fact listen
to the recordings,
monitor what was going on,
and sometimes, you know,
observe physically
who was going in and out of the room,
because when you have a recording,
a-all you have are a bunch of voices.
One of the challenges of those recordings
is trying to figure out,
particularly in sexual situations
with more than
a couple of people involved,
who's saying what, who's doing what,
and so there was physical surveillance
then involved to know, uh,
who was in the room,
uh, who appeared to sound what way,
and what they might be up to.
Down this avenue of sadness,
they bring President John F. Kennedy,
martyred hero, to lie in state
under the great Dome of the Capitol.
No memorial oration or eulogy
could more eloquently honour
President Kennedy's memory
than the earliest possible passage
of the Civil Rights Bill,
for which he fought so long.
Congress passes
the most sweeping Civil Rights Bill
ever to be written into the law,
and thus reaffirms
the conception of equality for all men
that began with Lincoln
and the Civil War 100 years ago.
The Negro won his freedom then.
He wins his dignity now.
Five hours after the House
passes the measure,
the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is signed
at the White House by President Johnson.
Before an audience of legislators
and Civil Rights leaders,
who have laboured long and hard
for passage of the bill,
President Johnson calls
for all Americans to back
what he calls a turning point in history.
Integration leader
Martin Luther King receives his pen,
a gift he said he would cherish.
The Department of Justice
will enforce the law if necessary.
And G-Man chief
J. Edgar Hoover is present.
Now, in this summer of 1964,
the Civil Rights Bill is
the law of the land.
In the words of the president,
"It restricts no one's freedom,
so long as he respects
the rights of others."
This is an extremely
moving moment in my life.
We didn't know
anything about it.
We didn't even know that Dr. King
had been nominated
until it was announced
that he had received the Nobel Prize.
I do not consider this
merely an honour to me personally,
but a tribute to the discipline,
wise restraint, and majestic courage
of the millions of gallant Negroes
and white persons of good will,
who have followed a non-violent course
in seeking to establish
the reign of justice,
and the rule of love
across this nation of ours.
Do you plan to go
in person, do you?
Yes, I definitely plan to.
Will Mrs. King go with you?
Uh, well I certainly hope so,
and, uh, I'm sure
that we can work out a way
for her to get there,
being a mother, and four children,
it's not easy for her
to get away all the time,
but, uh, I'm sure that,
on this occasion,
she will be accompanying me.
I was with him down in Bimini,
shortly after the announcement.
Bimini didn't have any phones,
and there was no television.
There was nothing much to do on Bimini.
And he was working
on his Nobel Prize speech.
But all of a sudden, you know,
these helicopters started coming in.
It was all the national press
that had found out where we were.
And they came and they told us
that Hoover had made the speech
to a women's organisation,
that Martin Luther King
was the world's most notorious liar.
See. Well, I don't know
what he was lying about.
Well, naturally I was, uh, shocked
and greatly surprised
that Mr. Hoover would make such
an unwarranted and vicious accusation.
Uh, I don't think Mr. Hoover
would have made such a statement
if he had not been under
the great deal of pressure.
Do you believe the FBI is doing all it can
to resolve civil rights complaints?
Well, I don't know
all of the inner workings of the FBI.
I do know that in cases
that do not involve Negroes
and civil rights,
the FBI moves with dispatch,
it has a machinery, the know-how.
The fact remains that in spite
of all of the brutalities
that we faced in Alabama and Georgia,
not a single arrest was made,
in spite of the fact
that four unoffending innocent Negro girls
were brutally murdered
in a church in Birmingham, Alabama,
not a single arrest has been made,
and in spite of the fact
that the civil rights workers
were killed this summer in Mississippi,
uh, we haven't seen a single arrest.
After Hoover denounced
Martin Luther King
as the most notorious liar
in the United States,
it produced a real showdown
between Hoover and King.
I have no comment to make on that.
- Any, uh...
- How are you feeling, Mr. Hoover?
Is there any, uh, response in your part
to the suggestions that you resign?
That's the wish father to the thought.
Thank you very much, sir.
Thank you.
Hoover and King only met
face-to-face once.
They agreed to sit down, uh,
on Hoover's turf in Hoover's office,
and try to make peace.
Testing, one, two.
All right.
King showed up.
He brought a few of his closest advisors
and aids with him.
There was not press inside that ofce
when they sat down together.
By all accounts, Hoover kind of
talked at them for a while...
and then King emerged saying,
you know, "All good."
Did he apologise to you
or in any way indicate the threats
from what he had said?
Well, I must say that the conference,
uh, was very friendly,
and that, uh, Mr. Hoover talked
in a very amiable way
so that, uh, in a very friendly manner.
The whole talk was very friendly, and uh,
I think he sought to get
over to us some of the...
Do you feel your visit here then
was a success,
or how would you characterise it?
Well, I would say it was a success
in, in the sense that I think
we develop new levels of understanding.
And as I said to him in the beginning,
I felt that this was a basic necessity.
Did you specifically mention
his comment about being a liar?
Uh, I think we'll have to end it here.
King and Hoover pretended,
to come to some sort of
accord out of that,
but it was a big controversy,
and it was a polarizing controversy.
What, uh,
do you think of Martin Luther King?
Well, sir, I don't know.
Uh, | read a lot about him.
I don't, I don't care for him.
He's too bossy.
Thinks he's too smart.
I think he's a very wonderful man,
trying to help our race.
Well, you know what, uh,
Hoover thought about him.
- I think he was about--
- He said he was the most--
--10 times as bad as Hoover said.
Why, why do you feel that way, sir?
Well, just from all the trouble
that he's caused in this country,
all this rioting and things.
I just think he's about the worst, he,
he is a human, but the worst in the world.
Probably my favourite
public opinion poll,
which tells us something about
how radically different this moment was,
in the aftermath of that showdown,
fully 50% of the public sided
with J. Edgar Hoover, around 15,
20% sided with Martin Luther King,
and a bunch of other people said
they weren't following it and didn't know,
but Hoover was
the universally beloved figure.
King was the controversial figure.
And I think we tend to forget that.
One of the things
that's helped to legitimise the FBI
is American popular culture.
The FBI.
I think that we're constantly battling
with popular representations
of police, FBI, and federal agents...
NY20, go ahead. our saviours.
The FBI was incredibly good
under Hoover,
at promoting an image of itself
really as the heroes of America.
Hey, Mr. Hoover,
your G-Men sure are good.
I'd like to be one when I grow up.
Well, if you work hard, play hard,
live clean, you certainly will be one.
One of the most
important things that Hoover did
was to create a Bureau
really in his own image.
That meant that he hired a very particular
kind of person as an agent,
a relatively conservative white man
of a certain height and a certain weight.
He particularly liked fraternity boys
and football players...
but there's a reason
that people know when you say,
"That's a G-Man,"
there's something that you have in mind.
It's a man in a suit, a white man,
probably about six feet tall,
buff, conservative.
That was what Hoover wanted.
Time Magazine says
that Martin Luther King, Jr.
has made himself the unchallenged voice
of the Negro people,
that he has become to millions
in the north and in the south,
a symbol of the Negro revolution.
He is a member of the clergy.
He has been called the American Gandhi.
He is with us today from Atlanta, Georgia,
where he is president of the Southern
Christian Leadership Conference.
We'll have a question now from Gay Pauley.
The, uh, non-violence always end up
with violence or almost always, Dr. King.
Um, what, what excuse or what, uh, reason
do you offer for this approach of creating
a crisis atmosphere in a community,
which leads to bloodshed,
as it has in many southern cities
and some northern?
Well, I think we should see the source
of the bloodshed rst, and that,
we must understand
the real non violent creed.
Well, doesn't this crisis atmosphere,
though, uh, create or endanger
the Negro's cause by creating
among the whites a resentment of feeling
that the Negro is moving too rapidly,
uh, too, um, asking too much so suddenly?
Does this worry you that this atmosphere
could be creating, or is?
Well, I think this is a temporary response
in any social revolution.
Well, doesn't that hurt your cause?
Uh, I don't think so ultimately.
I think it helps it in the nal analysis.
The only way people can
grapple with their prejudices
is to admit that they have them.
And so often people don't
realise they have them, uh,
and so often people don't realise
or honestly acknowledge
that there is a problem.
And, uh, it is necessary
in the non-violent movement
to bring the issue to the surface
so that people
are forced to deal with it
and to deal with their conscience
on the issue.
Oh, this light of mine
I'm gonna let it shine
Oh, this light of mine
I'm gonna let it shine
Oh, this light of mine
I'm gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine,
let it shine
Oh, we have the light of freedom
We're gonna let it shine
Oh, we have light of freedom
We're gonna let it shine
Oh, we have the light of freedom
We're gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine,
let it shine
Oh, God gave to us
We're gonna let it shine
Oh, God gave to us
We're gonna let it shine
Oh, God gave to us
We're gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine,
let it shine
I call upon you.
I have the great honour
on behalf
of the Nobel Committee
to hand over to you...
the insignia of the Nobel Peace Prize,
the diploma and the gold medal.
Thank you very much.
Thank you very much.
Now, this is the greatest honour
that King has received.
And the fact that King is now
being internationally celebrated
as a moral leader
deeply angers
and offends both Hoover and Sullivan.
He was upset
that this young black man,
who, I think at that time, was 34 or 35,
is being recognised around the world
as a pioneer in peace and justice.
Hoover was being ignored,
and he blamed us.
Now, what am I gonna do
about Martin Luther King
with all these reports that are
coming in on him all the time?
And then somebody-
can somebody tell him,
uh, watch his conduct?
looks to me like he's too far gone.
Well, a lot of it,
as far as his relationships
with girls is concerned,
there's been many...
Maybe... maybe they're
getting the Nobel Prize...
Of course, Hoover loves that,
he doesn't like King.
Now, they're pressing me to attend
a dinner in his honour in New York.
I can't do that, can I?
I would think you could,
but I wouldn't advise you to.
I'd find some other reason why you can't.
The FBI is frustrated that,
even though they've successfully
caught King in 15 or more hotel rooms,
and they've distributed this
behind the scenes to church leaders,
to reporters, nothing's publicly happened.
That despite all of the hundreds
and hundreds of man hours
that they've put into this,
King has not been personally destroyed.
For Hoover, you know,
a lot of this is framed
as a matter of hypocrisy.
Here is the sainted minister
presenting himself
as this great moral authority,
but we actually know he's this sick,
dirty penrerted creature.
And you see that kind of language
all over FBI documents.
The FBI surveillance
of Dr. King, uh, it was special
in the fact that whatever city he went to,
it was all hands on deck.
Everything else stopped.
Hoover was obsessed with, uh,
Martin Luther King and his activities.
From what I heard,
there were some photographs.
Whoever was in 'em,
that just kind of fed that,
that mindset of Hoover, that, uh,
this was a dangerous man
and that he needed to be removed.
Now, this is not the way
that Sullivan or Hoover themselves
would have said it,
but there was a radicalism
to King's sexuality
that they viewed as offensive.
For Hoover in particular,
he himself tried to be
a very tightly-controlled person
when it came to matters
of his personal life and his sexuality,
and the way that he policed
the boundaries of that.
Now that's a complicated story
in its own right.
and particularly Bill Sullivan,
the head of domestic intelligence,
paternalistically thought
that Martin Luther King, Jr.
was morally unfit to be
a leader of Black America.
I think for Hoover as well,
who was really raised
in a Southern segregationist tradition,
um, a set of really outsized fears
about Black men's sexuality,
about Black men as rapists,
as people who don't know how to control
their sexual appetites, right?
They're looking
at what they're finding out about King
and sort of seeing it through that lens
and narrating it
through that kind of language.
Dr. Martin Luther King is
calling himself a Christian,
and he mixes white women, coloured women,
and men and women all together.
I think that this interest
in the sexual life of King,
this is just inseparable
from the history of racial violence
in the United States.
And how can you look
in these stripes of red on this flag,
knowing very well that your forefathers,
yes, yours, not mine,
yours, all of them,
that that stripe represents that blood
that they spilled on this soil,
American soil,
something that you have never had to do,
to give you this God-given right
of racial purity and our heritage.
When we think about the US
as it emerges from the Civil War,
you have this idea
that formeiiy enslaved people
should be integrated
into the body politic.
And there is an enormous pushback,
not only from supporters
of the Confederacy,
but the problem of race is
a national problem as well.
One of the core justifications
for preventing Black male suffrage
was deviance,
that Black people are deviant,
that Black men in the State House
are a threat to white women.
And it's this representation of Black
political aspiration as sexual threat.
And unfortunately
that's an ever-recurring theme.
This mobilisation of Black sexuality
as a justification for murder,
for exclusion,
for discrimination and for incarceration.
This is a fabric of American history.
This was a way
that you could bring down
a very successful,
influential Black civil rights leader
and contain the movement
by destroying its figurehead.
And so it's at that moment that
the FBI decide that they're really gonna
and go quite overtly after King.
When you stand up
against the forces of evil...
you will be persecuted
for righteousness sake.
The words of the spiritual,
you will be buked and scorned.
You will be talked about.
You will be lied on.
You will be persecuted in many ways.
You will be thrown, again, maybe
into narrowed and frustrating jail cells.
I can't promise you
that you can avoid this.
We used to have
these conference calls,
uh, at least three times a week,
late at night, 10 or 11 o'clock at night.
And I was convinced then the FBI was
tapping our- I just as- I just said,
"I'm sure they're doing it."
Dr. King became so annoyed at me
for repeatedly saying this.
"Clarence," he said, "don't you know
the FBI has got more important
"and better things to do...
than to be wiretapping our phones?"
But there did come a day
when he became more suspicious.
And then there came a day, certain...
when the FBI mailed the tape
of Dr. King...
with other women,
mailed it to him and to Coretta...
with an advice that
he should go kill himself.
That's when he knew.
I think there have
always been a couple
of really important tensions
within the FBI.
One is being a very rule-bound
a very professional organisation,
an organisation very attuned
to, uh, jurisdiction and law...
and then being a-- an organisation
that was almost lawless.
The bureau has all of these
hotel room recordings.
And so Sullivan has his underlings
compose a greatest hits
compendium tape...
and then sits down at his own typewriter
to draft an anonymous
threatening letter to King.
This is purportedly
from an admirer within the movement, uh,
who has found out about King's
sexual indiscretions, uh,
feels betrayed by it
and writes, uh, this full page,
really scurrilous letter
denouncing King as a beast,
and a pervert
and a monster, a hypocrite,
and in fact saying,
"I know what you've done."
It's clearly
a very poor quality attempt
of someone who's sort of
culturally clueless,
to pass as Black.
They put this package together
and send it off, uh,
saying, "King,
you know what you have to do,"
and giving him a deadline
by which he needs to do it.
Many people have interpreted that
to be that you need to kill yourself,
and this is one of the ways
that King and his confidantes
who saw this letter interpreted it.
There's some ambiguity there,
but it is one of the most notorious
and dirty tricks that the FBI ever,
ever conducted in the 1960's.
- Have you read that letter?
- Yes, I have...
I was sick to my stomach, actually.
I mean, I didn't throw up,
but I felt ill reading it.
And that's what I mean
when I say I think this entire episode
represents the darkest part
of the Bureau's history.
The package was sent to the office.
I think it was mailed to us
from somewhere in Florida.
We never saw it.
It was put in a box and sent to Coretta.
So she opened it up, and she played it,
and then she called the office
and said, "Look,
"somebody has sent a tape in here
"trying to get Martin to kill himself.
"And they have a recording of some man
and woman in the bed."
I didn't even wanna hear it, you know?
This was designed to upset him.
We always assumed
that Hoover was behind it.
My philosophy about the movement
is that unless I saw something
with my own eyes, um,
you really have to be careful
what you believe.
I told you that I believe
That I'll be free
Hallelujah freedom, Hallelujah freedom
Hallelujah freedom
I'm here because
I want you to know that I'm with you
and that I am with my husband.
As the wife of, um, a major symbol
of the Civil Rights movement,
I think I can say that,
um, without boasting,
I think it's a fact, um...
I have had the privilege of being perhaps,
uh, closer to him than anybody else,
and perhaps that maybe
I understand him better than anyone else.
And, uh, therefore I think
I have a pretty good understanding
of the whole struggle.
In the immediate wake of Mrs. King,
Dr. King, and King's closest aides
listening to the anonymous,
embarrassing tape recording from the FBI,
Dr. King undergoes
a real emotional crisis.
And it's an emotional crisis
that the FBI is listening in on,
thanks to its telephone wiretaps.
Dr. King is desperately afraid
that his sex life is going to be exposed
in raw detail to the American public.
Now his life is so busy
on a day-to-day basis
in early 1965
that he's not able to worry
about this twenty four hours a day,
seven days a week.
He's distracted from his worries
a good portion of the time.
But the emotional impact on King
of what the FBI was doing to him
cannot be gainsaid.
King was clearly
in very serious emotional turmoil,
uh, emotional fear.
And even as a few weeks went by
and nothing happened,
King always has that worry
in the back of his mind,
that at some point the FBI. is going
to get lucky, and some journalist,
some magazine is
going to print all of this.
This is highway number 80,
Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
You can fly it in a matter of minutes,
you can drive it in less than an hour,
or you can walk it in five days,
which is what this is all about.
We knew that the FBI
was following closely
almost everywhere we went.
We identified the agents.
We assumed that the rooms were bugged.
We knew the telephones were tapped.
Dick Gregory said that, um,
if you're Black and not slightly paranoid,
you're really sick.
And we were slightly paranoid,
but we never let that paranoia
interfere with what we were trying to do.
We've lived with slavery
and segregation 345 years.
We waited a long time for freedom.
Now is the time to make real
the promises of democracy.
Now is the time to make justice
a reality for all of God's children.
Today is
a triumph for freedom,
as huge as any victory
that's ever been won on any battlefield.
The triumphal passage
of the Voting Rights Act really highlights
what a close political alliance has
developed between Martin Luther King
and President Lyndon Johnson's
Okay. Hold on, please.
- Hello? Hello?
- Yes, Dr. King.
Yeah, Mr. President.
How are you today?
Oh, I'm doing pretty good.
But now you better get
your thinking cap on,
on this conference
because we're going to have to rush it.
We don't want to rush it too much.
We want to have plenty of preliminary
work on the panels and things...
- Uh-huh.
- ...but you better
you can see here that, uh,
my Howard university speech
wasn't any too early.
That's right, that's right.
You said- you said it
right there, that's right.
But you put a little
of that stuff in your thing
refer to that Howard University speech.
Nobody ever publicised that.
Almost every speech
I've made, because, uh,
I think it's the best statement
and analysis of the problem
I've seen everywhere,
certainly no president
has ever said it like that before.
But if you got any suggestions
or recommendations, why,
I'm just as close as the telephone
if you got enough money to pay it,
if you haven't money, call Collect.
All right.
Increasingly now,
Americans are functioning directly
in the fight for freedom in this far,
foreign corner of the earth.
The risks are real.
We intend
to convince the Communists
that we cannot be defeated
by force of arms or by superior power.
They're not easily convinced.
When Martin Luther King, Jr.
first speaks out publicly
against the Vietnam War in August, 1965,
he quite quickly is
forced back into line,
by hostile criticism directed at him
by democratic allies of President Johnson.
We will not be forced
out of South Vietnam.
And so King then remains silent
about Vietnam for almost 18 months.
During our tour
in the Republic of Vietnam,
we have all seen what communism can do
to a struggling nation
in our world community.
When King is on his way
to Jamaica in early 1967,
and while waiting for a flight,
he buys some magazines
in an airport gift shop,
and in an issue of Ramparts Magazine,
he sees a whole series of photos
about the impact of US Air Force
napalm bombing on Vietnamese civilians.
Non-violence for King was not simply
a civil rights protest tactic.
King believed that non-violence
was a Christian ethic
that should be applied around the world,
not just by Black demonstrators.
Let us pray.
Only in early 1967
does King's conscience
begin to so trouble him
about his prolonged silence
that he forces himself
to go public once again,
knowing full well that in doing so,
it will break his political alliance
with Lyndon Johnson and bring down
very widespread political criticism
on his head.
And of course, it's always good
to come back to Riverside.
The worst press that
Martin Luther King received, I think,
in his lifetime was exactly one year
before his assassination.
I come to this magnificent house
of worship tonight
because my conscience leaves me
no other choice.
A time comes when silence is betrayal,
and that time has come for us
in relation to Vietnam.
He reminded
President Johnson he could count.
How was there gonna be any money
for the war on poverty,
when all the money that was being
set aside for the war on poverty
was being spent to build bombs?
You know, America is a rich nation,
the richest nation on the face of the Earth.
Now, you know, what's wrong?
Our national priorities are mixed up.
And I'm afraid
the national administration
of our country is more concerned
about winning the war in Vietnam
than winning the war
against poverty
right here in the United States.
He was attacked
from coast to coast,
simply from describing
the world as it really is.
And this was not
the racist Southern press.
This was the "New York Times,"
and the "Washington Post,"
and the "LA Times,"
and, you know, I mean, everybody,
blasted him for having an opinion.
King went to Communist training school,
and I don't want anything to do
with Communists.
Are you sure of this?
Look right here.
Is that your only proof?
We have proof,
and we are satisfied that it's true proof.
When he publicly
spoke out against the war,
the persons he had known
and been close to...
for years
turned against him.
And we don't see any reason
for downgrading civil rights
and elevating the peace movement
above it, especially, uh,
the indignities our people are suffering.
The main show for us is
right here, civil rights.
Yeah. He was hurt
and depressed, and he, you know,
the pressure of the home
and his marriage and so forth, you know,
it was- it was getting to him.
It wasn't that
he was right or wrong.
He didn't have any business
having an opinion.
He realised how sick this country was,
and he felt that he couldn't slow down,
and he had to push on, regardless.
I weighed the criticisms that I would get.
Yes, sir.
I thought about even the fact
that some Negroes wouldn't understand
and some respectable,
Negro leaders who are more concerned
about being invited to the White House
than invited to the cause of justice
would be against me.
In the wake of Dr. King's
Riverside Church speech,
Lyndon Johnson's White House
very explicitly identifies King
as a major threat
to the president's policies.
I'm convinced that it will lead
to widespread discontent
and disenchantment with the administration
if there isn't a change in the policy
and an all-out effort to de-escalate
the war and bring an end to it.
Stick with Civil rights!
Leave the war to the generals,
back to Hanoi!
Now, Lyndon Johnson's
White House had always been privy
to the FBI's sexual surveillances
of Dr. King.
But now...
Lyndon Johnson comes to view
Martin Luther King as an enemy.
And the FBI is eager
to strengthen its own relationship
with President Johnson
by jumping on this anti-King bandwagon
with greater fervour.
I just got word
that Martin Luther King will give
a press conference
at 11:00 this morning in Atlanta.
King has, uh, uh, was told by Levison,
who is his principal advisor
and who is a secret communist,
that he has more to gain nationally
by agreeing with the violence
that is coming out against it.
That's the substance of information.
We've got that highly confidentially
over the tacticals,
and I'll have for you tomorrow
that memorandum you want
on all the riots in the country.
That's right.
And I want you to keep your men busy
to find a central connection,
but I wouldn't be a damn bit surprised
if this poverty group here is not
stirring up some of this.
We'll dig into that very thoroughly.
All right. Okay, fine.
Thank you, Mr. President.
So many resources are mobilised
against suppressing dissent in the US.
The FBI has done extensive surveillance
of all kinds of Black organisations.
Don't be afraid. Don't be ashamed.
We want Black power.
- We want Black power.
- Black power!
- We want Black power.
- That's right.
When you look
at the social movements
from the point of view
of these law enforcement agencies,
it looks very different.
We stand on the eve
of a Black revolution, brothers.
Masses of our people are in the streets.
We are fighting tit for tat,
tooth for tooth,
an eye for an eye,
and a life for a life.
The rebellions
that we see are merely
dress rehearsals for
the revolution that's to come.
We better get ourselves
some guns and prepare ourselves.
The Bureau was
of course anti-communist,
but I'd say its most consistent campaigns
were against Black people.
Whether it's William Sullivan
or J. Edgar Hoover,
the policy was consistent.
They saw African-Americans as,
you know, J. Edgar Hoover has said
about the Black Panther party
that they were the greatest threat
to the internal security
of the United States.
The use of informants has existed
for years and years
by law enforcement agencies.
You even find reference to it
in the Bible,
uh, in the time of Moses.
Uh, certainly you cannot expect
to be able to penetrate
the secret conspiratorial organisations
without using secret agents.
There were FBI informants
in most domestic groups
in the United States.
That was the only way
you could investigate them,
especially if they were
Black organisations.
You know, we didn't have
that many Black agents back then,
so you had to have individuals
inside that organisation
to get inside information.
It was just- you had to.
The general strategy
of intelligence services
is that they use surveillance
in order to figure out
how to break apart these organisations.
So it's not just surveillance
for surveillance sake.
It is to observe the organisations,
to figure out what their points
of vulnerability are
and then purposely insert people
into those conflicts.
It's in the late 1950's that the FBI founds
this super-secret program,
Counter-Intelligence Program,
that allows them not
just to conduct surveillance
but to begin to disrupt the organisations
quite explicitly,
spread rumours within the organisation,
foment violence, et cetera.
You have to be astonished just
at the number of sources that they had.
When you look through
these FBI reports,
I mean, they've got scores
and scores of people.
Ernest Withers was probably
the most successful
civil rights photographer
you never heard of.
He was very much a movement insider
and covered the civil rights movement
from its very dawn.
He shot a very monumental
picture of Dr. King
on the bus at the end
of the Montgomery Bus boycott.
You know, a very radical revolutionary
moment in American history,
Ernest Withers is right there
in the middle of it.
Ernest had a completely
different side to him
that no one knew about,
and that was that
he doubled as an informant for the FBI
for, as many as 18 years.
We had an informant in our office.
James Harrison?
I'm not calling the names.
Jim Harrison is a paid
FBI informant in SCLC's office,
sitting a few yards
from Martin Luther King, Jr.
Having someone like Harrison
would allow for a very
efficient daily reporting
on where's King gonna be travelling,
what's he gonna be doing,
what are people in the office
concerned about.
I did not know...
that he was in fact an FBI informant.
I did not know it in fact,
but I believed that he was,
and I tried to counsel Martin
that- don't let him know
more than he needs to know.
We now know that Harrison had
worked as an informant
for the FBI in two other cities.
It seems beyond a possible coincidence
that he moves to Atlanta
and volunteers to work at SCLC,
without some suggestion or instruction
from the FBI.
It's not really that surprising,
knowing now what we know
about what the FBI was doing.
Anybody who was to the left of mainstream,
anyone who supported
the anti-war movement,
anyone who got
what they considered militant
in civil rights
was deemed a subversive.
And they were keeping files on them.
They were running a surveillance state.
This is where it began,
the rural south.
And here where it began,
for the Negro, the problem remains.
There's no ghetto here, just poverty.
The worst kind of poverty.
The kind of poverty that makes you wonder,
can this be the United States of America,
the richest country in the world,
in the year 1967?
It is not just material poverty.
There is also a poverty of the spirit.
What is it about the Negro?
I mean, every other group that
came as an immigrant somehow,
not easily, but somehow got around it.
Is it just the fact that Negros are black?
The fact is that the Negro was a slave
in this country for 244 years.
That led to the thing-ification
of the Negro,
so he was not looked upon as a person,
he was not looked upon as a human being
with the same status and worth
as other human beings.
And it seems to me
that white America must see
that no other ethnic group
has been a slave
on American soil,
and so emancipation for the Negro
was really freedom to hunger.
It was freedom, uh, to the winds
and rains of heaven.
It was freedom without food
to eat or land to cultivate,
and therefore, it was freedom
and famine at the same time.
And when white Americans tell
the Negro to lift himself
by his own bootstraps,
they don't look over
the legacy of slavery and segregation.
I believe we ought to do all we can
and seek to lift ourselves
by our own bootstraps,
but, uh, it's a cruel jest
to say to a bootless man
that he ought to lift himself
by his own bootstraps.
Hello, everybody back here.
King is deeply pessimistic
that America will ever undertake
the pursuit of real equality
for Black people.
Ladies and gentlemen of the press,
I'm gonna read, uh, an opening statement.
And that leads him
to announce the idea
of holding a poor people's
campaign in Washington
in the spring of 1968.
The Southern Christian
Leadership Conference
will lead waves of the nation's
poor and disinherited
to Washington, D.C. next spring
to demand a redress of their grievances
by the United States government.
We will go there.
We will demand to be heard,
and we will stay until America responds.
The FBI was deeply alarmed by these plans.
For Hoover, you know,
this was his home turf.
But they're also very concerned
about the kind of conflict
that might emerge out of this.
They thought it could be
a significant threat
to the national capital
in particular.
Power for poor people
will really mean having the ability,
the togetherness,
the assertiveness,
and the aggressiveness
to make the power structure
of this nation say yes
when they may be desirous of saying no.
Black people, Mexican-Americans,
Puerto Ricans, Appalachian whites
all working together
to solve the problem of poverty.
It bears emphasis
that William Sullivan,
the head of American
domestic intelligence,
in late March of 1968,
begins revising and expanding
the FBI's primary document
to indict Dr. King
and chooses to add for the first time
the rape participation allegation
to his revision of this document.
It's unclear how
much we're ever going to know
about any particular incident
in King's sexual history,
particularly the most explosive
allegation that's been made.
Handwritten annotations
on this document allege that,
King was present at the rape
of a Black female parishioner
by a Baltimore minister,
and that he, quote,
looked on and laughed.
I have many, many questions about this.
It's supposed to be an audio tape,
but concluded within this document
is the assertion that King looked on,
which I thought was strange.
That in itself to me was a huge red flag.
The agents
who were listening in in live time
in a room right next door
to where this was taking place,
did nothing.
Their focus was on gaining
embarrassing material.
We're gonna have to not assume
that everything that's said
in those documents is true.
I think also not assume
that everything that's said
in those documents is false.
And I also think that
we have to understand
that FBI agents were making their own
very subjective judgments
about what's actually happening.
One of the things
I was really struck by this
is how much it adheres to
J. Edgar Hoover and William C. Sullivan
and the FBI's representations of King.
The agents were really rewarded
for finding this kind of material
that would undermine
the civil rights movement
and other Black organisations.
And so in some ways
it provides this grand narrative
that has this allegedly big revelation,
in the context of this
larger life of misconduct.
Sullivan is updating
and expanding this document
because of the political threat
to the Johnson administration
that this poor people's
campaign represents.
All of a sudden,
Sullivan's work on this revision halts,
and it halts because Dr. King is murdered.
The night before his assassination
King gave one of the most
remarkable speeches
of his whole career.
One of the themes was
the idea that protest itself
was really in peril.
You were seeing crackdowns
all across the country,
uh, increasing concerns about violence,
and he was really making
the claim that in Memphis
it wasn't just the rights of workers,
it wasn't just racial justice
that was on the line,
but it was also, uh, the right to speech,
the right to protest,
the First Amendment itself.
If I lived in China or even Russia
or any totalitarian country,
maybe I could understand
the denial of certain basic
First Amendment privileges
because they haven't committed
themselves to that over there,
but somewhere I read
of the freedom of assembly.
Somewhere I read
- of the freedom of speech.
- Yeah.
Somewhere I read
- of the freedom of press.
- Yeah.
Somewhere I read that
the greatness of America
is the right to protest for rights.
Good evening.
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King,
and a Nobel Peace Prize winner
and the leader of the non-violent
civil rights movement
in the United States,
was assassinated in Memphis tonight.
A sniper's bullet cut down Dr. King
as he stood
on a hotel balcony in Memphis.
A special bulletin flashed
on the television
that Dr. King had been shot,
and I just stood there,
you know, a long time.
And then a little while later,
they said Dr. King was dead.
And I- I was angry,
as a whole lot
of other people were angry.
We're very upset today
because we've lost in our generation
somebody like a father.
In our lifetimes, people 25 and 26,
he's the first major man we ever saw
who started a bus riot
and everything like that,
and today many people
are out here on the street
wondering which way
they're gonna turn
because we don't know
where we're gonna do.
Do we go to the right?
Do we go to the left?
We're not sure today.
I don't think
the FBI had a deep interest
in protecting King.
In fact, there are many moments
in which the FBI refused to act
in a kind of bodyguard capacity,
or even a warning capacity
when King was under threat.
In the end, after Hoover felt
that he was under enormous pressure,
the FBI did conduct
a pretty decent wide-ranging,
incredibly labour-intensive investigation
to find someone who was involved
in King's assassination.
The man named as James Earl Ray
was arrested at quarter past 11
this morning
by two Scotland Yard detectives,
as he passed through
the British Immigration Offices
for a flight to Brussels.
An announcement
by the American FBI Director
J. Edgar Hoover said the man was
fully armed with a loaded pistol,
and he carried two Canadian
passports and a false name.
I think once they understood
that the FBI's investigative reputation
was gonna be at stake in this case,
uh, they poured enormous resources
into trying to bring that case home.
Ray's life and civil rights
were being guarded more closely
than those of Martin Luther King,
whom Ray is accused of murdering.
I am always
amazed that, you know,
with the surveillance by the FBI
24/7 around Dr. King and the SCLC
that they wouldn't be aware
of James Earl Ray
at Lorraine Motel.
I don't think James Earl Ray
had anything to do
with Dr. King's assassination,
so I can't really comment on that.
The assassination of King
and the fact that we were doing
surveillance that day
when he was shot, uh, is always
in the back of your mind going,
you know, did we not know this?
Could we not prevent this?
I didn't hear anything that would indicate
that headquarters knew,
uh, and chose not to do anything.
I never saw that. I never heard that.
But it was the question everybody had
because it was a legitimate
question, you know, why?
Why did we not intercede if we were there?
This was an emotional
frustrated outraged nation.
Other people were trying
to incite to violence.
We always said that
the only thing that could defeat us
was violence.
There will be singing
I think
that's still true in this country.
I don't think-
violence will not succeed
in changing this nation.
And before I'd be a slave
Whether it's white violence
or black violence...
or any other colour violence.
And go home to my Lord
And be free
Oh, freedom
Freedom over me
Dr. King used to laugh
and joke about his death.
He said, "Look, you gonna die.
"Death is the ultimate democracy.
"Everybody's got to die,
and you don't have anything to say
"about when you die, where you die.
"Your only choice is
what is it you give your life for."
Here's my first question to you.
What do you see your
responsibility as a historian
when you're dealing with someone
like Martin Luther King?
What's your responsibility?
It varies over time.
So when these tapes
come out in 2027,
I think it's gonna be
very interesting to see
what the reaction is.
I don't know that it
will create a fundamental,
uh, re-understanding of King
as a political figure,
but I do think that
it will probably give us
a slightly more complicated sense
of him as a human being.
There's always
been this unresolved,
uh, tension in who we are
and who we say we are
and who we want to be.
But there was always this...
emotional enthusiasm
that we could change the world.
Did he have, uh,
sexual relationships with women
other than his married wife?
Yes, he did.
I can't change that.
That's a matter of factual history.
Does that...
make him in my mind...
less of an historic civil rights leader?
No, it does not.
I just don't think that the tapes
should see the light of day.
As I said, it would serve
no purpose whatsoever,
and I don't see anything good
that could come about it.
I see bad things
that could come about it.
I don't know enough about
what might be in the tapes to react,
except I'd say this;
I have never met a perfect human.
There are no perfect humans.
There's not one speaking to you now.
And so I would hope that
no matter what is revealed,
and maybe there'll be nothing
new revealed about Dr. King,
people are able to understand
that people are complex,
and it doesn't detract from
what a person did for the good.
I think
it's easy for us to look back
at what the FBI was doing
during Hoover's years
and be outraged by it,
and rightly so,
but I also think there's an image
of J. Edgar Hoover as being
some sort of rogue actor behind the scenes
and being kind of out of step
with the American mainstream,
but the truth is that
a lot of this wasn't particularly secret.
Um, a lot of people understood
what the FBI was up to
and in fact, they supported it.
The FBI was not
a renegade agency.
It was fundamentally a part,
a core part of the existing mainstream
American political order.
I don't know
what's in the 2027 releases,
but I don't think that this will impact
the assessment of Dr. King's legacy.
The 1960's, the post-war years,
are a period of real transformation.
One thing that's really important
is that we acknowledge that Black people
have only truly had citizen rights
for the last 50 plus years.
It's so recent.
Looking at the FBI campaigns against King,
the Black Panther Party,
and many other people,
I think there's a core component to this
that really is structural and functional.
People hold these attitudes,
and we focus on J. Edgar Hoovers own
particular history and person,
but I think that these are attitudes
that have been core
to how the racial order
operates in the US.
What helped motivate these campaigns
was the real fear
that Black people could undermine
the way the country wanted to see itself,
and this manifested itself
not only in the targeting of leaders
and people that were visible,
but of ordinary people.
So this core of fear and aggressions
towards African-Americans,
I think has a lot to do
with white people's own
conception of themselves
and the danger of Black people
forcing a reckoning
with the violence of the American past.
Oh, freedom
Oh, freedom over me
And before I'd be a slave
I'd be buried in my grave
And go home to my Lord
And be free
Oh, freedom
Sing it, sisters
Oh freedom over me