Helms, Jesse. “Remarks of Senator Jesse Helms.” Congressional Quarterly
Republished by VDARE.com on February 26, 2005
Congressional Record, 129, no. 130 (October 3, 1983): S13452-S13461.
Mr. President, in light of the
comments by the Senator from Massachusetts (Mr.
Kennedy), it is important that there be such an
examination of the political activities and associations
of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., principally from the
beginning of his work in the civil rights movement in
the mid 1950s until his death in 1968. Throughout this
period, but especially toward the beginning and end of
his career, King associated with identified members of
the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA),
with persons who were former members of or close to the
CPUSA, and with CPUSA front organizations. In some
important respects King`s civil rights activities and
later his opposition to the Vietnam war were strongly
influenced by and dependent on these associations.
There is no evidence that King
himself was a member of the CPUSA or that he was a
rigorous adherent of Marxist ideology or of the
Communist Party line. Nevertheless, King was repeatedly
warned about his associations with known Communists by
friendly elements ill the Kennedy Administration and the
Department of Justice (DOJ) (including strong and
explicit warning from President Kennedy himself). King
took perfunctory and deceptive measures to separate
himself from the Communists against whom he was warned.
He continued to have close and secret contacts with at
least some of them after being informed and warned of
their background, and he violated a commitment to sever
his relationships with identified Communists. Throughout
his career King, unlike many other civil rights leaders
of his time, associated with the most extreme political
elements in the United States. He addressed their
organizations, signed their petitions, and invited them
into his own organizational activities. Extremist
elements played a significant role in promoting and
influencing King`s opposition to the Vietnam war-an
opposition that was not predicated on what King believed
to be the best interests of the United States but on his
sympathy for the North Vietnamese Communist regime and
on an essentially Marxist and anti-American ideological
view of U.S. foreign policy.
King`s patterns of associations and
activities described in this report show that, at the
least, he had no strong objection to Communism, that he
appears to have welcomed collaboration with Communists,
and that he and his principal vehicle, the Southern
Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), were subject to
influence and manipulation by Communists. The conclusion
must be that Martin Luther King, Jr. was either an
irresponsible individual, careless of his own reputation
and that of the civil rights movement for integrity and
loyalty, or that he knowingly cooperated and sympathized
with subversive and totalitarian elements under the
control of a hostile foreign power.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on
January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. He was the son of
Alberta Williams and Martin Luther King, Sr., a Baptist
minister. He was graduated from Morehouse College,
Atlanta, in 1948, receiving the degree of B.A. He
attended the Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester,
Pennsylvania, receiving the degree of B.D. in 1951, and
he received the degree of Ph.D. from Boston University
in 1955. In 1953 he married Coretta Scott of Alabama, by
whom he was the father of four children. On April 4,
1968 King was murdered by a rifle assault in Memphis,
Tennessee. On March 10, 1969, James Earl Ray, an escaped
convict, pied guilty to the murder of King and was
sentenced to 99 years in prison, a term he is now
Operation “Solo” and Stanley D.
In the early 1950s the
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) undertook a
long-term and highly classified counter-intelligence
operation, against the CPUSA. The FBI persuaded a former
member of the National Committee of the CPUSA and former
editor of the Daily Worker, the Party newspaper, to
become active again within the Party leadership and to
report on Party activities to the FBI. This man`s name
was Morris Childs, and his brother, Jack Childs, also a
Communist, agreed to act as an informant as well. The
FBI operation was known as SOLO, and for nearly 30 years
it provided reliable and highly sensitive information
about the CPUSA, its activities within the United
States, and its relations with the Soviet Union to the
highest authorities in the U.S. government. At least
three U.S. Presidents were aware of SOLO, and Morris
Childs may have briefed President Nixon prior to his
trip to Moscow in 1972. In 1980 SOLO was brought to an
end. Jack Childs died on August 12, 1980, and the
operation was publicly disclosed and thus terminated by
historian David J Garrow in a book published the
Among the most important facts
learned from SOLO was that the CPUSA was dependent on a
direct financial subsidy paid by the Soviet Union. About
one million dollars a year in Soviet funds was paid to a
member of the CPUSA, usually Jack Childs himself, in New
York City. Although this subsidy was illegal, the FB!
allowed it to continue for a number of
reasons-prosecution would have exposed SOLO and
necessarily brought it to an end, and the operation was
of continuing value; and the dependence of the Party on
Soviet funds meant that it did not seek to increase its
membership and importance within the United States.
In 1953 Jack Childs reported to the
FBI that an individual named Stanley David Levison
(1912-1979), a New York lawyer and businessman, was
deeply involved in acquiring and disposing of the funds
of the Soviet subsidy to the CPUSA. Levison may have
been involved as a financial benefactor to the Party as
early as 1945 and may have established legitimate
business enterprises in the United States and Latin
America in order to launder Soviet funds to the Party.
In this connection Levison was said to have worked with
Isidore G. Needleman, the representative of the Soviet
trading corporation AMTORG.
Childs also reported to the FBI
that Levison assisted CPUSA leaders to acquire and
manage the Party`s secret funds and that he directed
about $50,000 a year into the Party`s treasury. After
the death of Party treasurer William Weiner in 1954,
Levison`s financial role became increasingly important,
and Levison, according to Childs, became “the interim
chief administrator of the party`s most secret funds.”2
The FBI maintained close
surveillance of Levison, but in mid to late 1955,
Levison`s financial role began to decline. The FBI
decreased its surveillance, although Levison was
believed to have occasional contacts with CPUSA leaders.
The Bureau eventually terminated surveillance of Levison,
probably sometime in 1957. Some indications that CPUSA
leaders were disgruntled with Levison led the FBI to
interview him on February 9 and March 4, 1960. It is not
clear what Levison told the FBI at these interviews, but
he definitely rejected the request of the FBI that he
become an informant within the Communist Party.
In the summer of 1956
Bayard Rustin, himself a former member of the Young
Communist League, the youth arm of the CPUSA, introduced
Levison to Martin Luther King, Jr. in New York City.
Levison and King soon became close friends, and Levison
provided important financial, organizational, and public
relations services for King and the SCLC. The FBI was
not aware of their relationship until very late 1961 or
early 1962, and it was the discovery of their
relationship that led to the protracted and intensive
FBI-DOJ surveillance of King for the remainder of his
life. The FBI believed that Levison was still a
Communist and that King`s relationship with him
represented an opportunity for the Communist Party to
infiltrate and manipulate King and the civil rights
Of King`s dependence on Levison
there can be no doubt. A DOJ Task Force investigating
the FBI surveillance of King discussed this dependence
in its report of 1977:
The advisor`s [Levison`s]
relationship to King and the SCLC is amply evidenced in
the files and the task force concludes that he was a
most trusted advisor. The files are replete with
instances of his counseling King and his organization on
matters pertaining to organization, finances, political
strategy and speech writing. Some examples follow:
advisor organized, in King`s name, a fund raising
society …. This organization and the SCLC were in
large measure financed by concerts arranged by this
person …. He also lent counsel to King and the SCLC on
the tax consequences of charitable gifts.
political strategy, he suggested King make a public
statement calling for the appointment of a black to the
Supreme Court …. This person advised against accepting
a movie offer from a movie director and against
approaching Attorney General Kennedy on behalf of a
labor leader ….In each instance his advice was
King`s speech before the AFL-CIO
National Convention was written by this advisor …. He
also prepared King`s May 1962 speech before the United
Packing House Workers Convention …. In 1965 he
prepared responses to press questions directed to Dr.
King from a Los Angeles radio station regarding the Los
Angeles racial riots and from the “New York Times”
regarding the Vietnam War.3
After King`s death, Coretta Scott
King described Levison`s role: “Always working in the
background, his contribution has been indispensable,”
and she wrote of an obituary of King written by Levison
Harry Belafonte, “two of his most devoted and
trusted friends,” as “the one which best describes
the meaning of my husband`s life and death.”4
It may be noted that this obituary began with a
description of America as “a nation tenaciously
racist …. sick with violence …. [and] corrosive with
alienation.” According to Garrow, Levison also
assisted King in the writing and publication of Stride
Toward Freedom, the administration of contributions to
SCLC, and the recruitment of employees of SCLC. King
offered to pay Levison for all this help, but Levison
consistently refused, writing that “the liberation
struggle [i.e., the civil rights movement] is the most
positive and rewarding area of work anyone could
There seem to have been few if any
agents and administrators in the FBI who knew of
Levison`s background of involvement in handling the
secret and illegal Soviet funds of the CPUSA who doubted
that Levison remained a Communist or under Party control
at the time he was working with King, and some FBI
personnel have suggested that Levison may actually have
held rank in the Soviet intelligence service. Garrow
himself does not seriously question the accuracy of
Childs`s reports of Levison`s earlier role in the Party,
but he appears to be skeptical that Levison continued to
be a Communist at the time he worked with King and that
he was motivated in this work by any factor other than
friendship for King and belief in the civil rights
Garrow`s conclusion in this respect
is open to question. He is decidedly favorable to King,
as opposed to J. Edgar Hoover and other anti-Communists
of the time. It is not clear why Garrow came to this
conclusion, since he does not appear to have had access
to all FBI materials on Levison or derived from SOLO and
since he appears to be largely ignorant of the nature of
CPUSA activities in racial relations through front
groups and surrogates and of the discipline of the Party
over its members.
A number of factors support the
belief that Levison continued to be a Communist or to
act under CPUSA control during his association with
(1) There is no evidence that
Levison broke with the CPUSA; the termination of his
financial activities on behalf of the Party prior to his
work with King means nothing as far as his affiliation
with or loyalty to the Party or the Communist movement
(2) Levison had been involved not
as a rank-and-file member but as an operative involved
with clandestine and illegal funding of the CPUSA by a
hostile foreign power. He had had access to the highest
leaders of the Party and to the inmost secrets of the
Party. It is not likely that such tasks would be given
to one who was not fully trusted by both the CPUSA
leadership and by the Soviets themselves. Even if
Levison had changed his mind about Communism, his
activities would have constituted grounds for blackmail
by the Party.
(3) Several years after the
apparent end of his financial activities for the CPUSA,
Levison rejected an opportunity to act as an FBI
informant against the Party. Details of his discussions
with the FBI are not available, but apparently they were
(4) Levison testified under
subpoena at an executive session of the Senate
Subcommittee on Internal Security on April 30, 1962.
This testimony is still classified. His attorney at this
time was William Kunstler, who became notorious for his
far left activities in the 1960s and 1970s; Kunstler had
been recommended to Levison by the latter`s friend,
Arthur Kinoy, also a far left activist. Although Levison
in his opening statement before the Subcommittee denied
that he was or ever had been a member of the Communist
Party, he refused to answer any questions during this
hearing dealing with his relations with the Party or his
alleged financial role in it; he pled the Fifth
Amendment throughout the hearing.
(5) Levison`s known policy and
personnel recommendations to King exhibit a leftist
orientation. He was instrumental in persuading and
influencing King to oppose the Vietnam war and in hiring
at least one other individual with known Communist
affiliations to work in SCLC.
(6) Prior to his work in a New
York-based civil rights group called “In Friendship” in
1955, Levison had never displayed any interest in civil
rights activities. The sudden development of his
interest in civil rights and his extensive,
time-consuming, and costly assistance to King may have
been motivated by a spontaneous and enduring dedication
to this cause, but there is little reason to think so.
His own description of the civil rights movement as a
“liberation struggle” suggests a Marxist
(7) After King was urged by DOJ to
disassociate himself from Levison and was subject to
surveillance and distrust by the FBI and the Kennedy
Administration, there was no effort on Levison`s part to
try to explain his past or to persuade appropriate
authorities (in the FBI, DOJ, or the White House) that
he had been innocent of Communist connections or that
his relationship with King was not connected to his
Communist affiliation. Had he been able to do so, King
and the civil rights movement would have been much more
favorably received by the Kennedy Administration and
King himself would probably have been spared several
years of surveillance and harassment by the FBI.
Instead, Levison and King entered into a secret and
deceptive relationship by which Levison continued to
influence King through an intermediary, himself of far
left orientation and background.
In short, Levison consistently
behaved in a manner that lent itself to a sinister
interpretation, and his behavior lends further credence
to the firm belief of FBI agents involved that Levison
remained a Communist or under Communist control. That
Levison remained under Communist control was and remains
a reasonable explanation of his activities in lieu of
any evidence to the contrary or any known behavior on
his part that would contradict this explanation.
The FBI informed Attorney General
Robert F. Kennedy of the close relationship between
Levison and King and of Levison`s Communist background
on January 8, 1962. The Attorney General decided to warn
King of Levison`s background and to urge him to
disassociate himself from Levison in order to spare
himself, the civil rights movement, and the Kennedy
Administration any future embarrassment. Both Burke
Marshall, Assistant Attorney General, acting through
Harris Wofford, White House civil rights advisor,
John Seigenthaler, Administrative Assistant to the
Attorney General, informed King that persons close to
him were Communists or had Communist backgrounds. King
expressed skepticism and made no commitment to inquire
further or to take any action. Marshall brought the
matter to King`s attention again in subsequent meetings.
On June 22, 1963, King met separately in Washington with
Marshall, Robert Kennedy, and President Kennedy. All
three men again warned l~King about the Communist
affiliations of Levison and Jack O`Dell, an official of
SCLC who had been promoted by Levison [and who had been
(and may still have been) a member of the National
Committee of the CPUSA. President Kennedy, in a private
conversation with King in the White House Rose Garden,
compared the situation with the
Profumo Scandal in Great Britain and specifically
stated, with reference to Levison and O`Dell,
“They`re Communists. You`ve got to get rid of them.”6
Even after this conversation, King
“made no move to sever ties with either O`Dell or
Levison.”7 It was not until the FBI
leaked information to the press about O`Dell and the
publication of this information that King “accepted”
O`Dell`s resignation from SCLC in a letter of July 3,
1963. King had still done nothing to sever ties with
Levison, and not until after a meeting of Burke Marshall
with Andrew Young of SCLC did a change in their
relationship occur. in this meeting Marshall told Young,
“I can`t give you any proof, but, if you know Colonel
Rudolph Abel of the Soviet secret intelligence, then you
know Stanley Levison? This characterization suggests
that the FBI may have had other facts about Levison
showing a direct link with the Soviet Union.
Levison himself reportedly
suggested to King that they curtail their association,
and King reluctantly agreed. However, they now entered
into a means of communication deliberately designed to
deceive the FBI and the Kennedy Administration. Levison
and King were to communicate only through an
intermediary (or “cut-out” in intelligence
parlance) and to avoid direct contact with each other.
In this way Levison could continue to influence King.
Whether Levison or King instigated this clandestine and
deceptive relationship is not clear.
The intermediary between King and
Levison, from July, 1963 until 1965, when the overt
contact between them was resumed, was Clarence B. Jones,
a black lawyer whose “left political views and firm
resistance to any symptoms of racial discrimination had
placed him in hot water a number of times” while
serving in the U.S. Army in the 1950s?
Jack O`Dell continued to maintain
an office at SCLC offices in New York City even after
his “resignation” of July 3, and King and SCLC
issued contradictory explanations of this continuing
relationship. King himself made commitments to federal
officials that he would sever his ties to Levison and
O`Dell, but telephonic surveillance of King, Levison,
and Jones showed that he had not done so in regard to
either individual. As Burke Marshall stated in an
interview in 1970:
you accept the concept of national security, if you
accept the concept that there is a Soviet Communist
apparatus and it is trying to interfere with things
here-which you have to accept-and that that`s a national
security issue and that taps are justified in that area,
I don`t know what could be more important than having
the kind of Communist that this man was claimed to be by
the Bureau directly influencing Dr. King? “
Hunter Pitts O`Dell
Hunter Pitts O`Dell (also known as
“Jack O`Dell” and “J.H. O`Dell”), known to have been
extensively involved in CPUSA affairs at a high level of
leadership, worked for the SCLC at least as early as
1961. O`Dell met Martin Luther King in 1959 and had
communicated with him by mail in 1959 and 1960. In June,
1962, Stanley Levison recommended to King that he hire
O`Dell as his executive assistant, and O`Dell
subsequently was increasingly active in SCLC and was
listed as a “ranking employee of the organization?”11
O`Dell testified under subpoena in
hearings before the Senate Subcommittee on Internal
Security (SISS) in New Orleans on April 12, 1956; he
took the Fifth Amendment when asked about his
organizational activities in New Orleans on behalf of
tile CPUSA. Materials discovered in O`Dell`s apartment
at the time the subpoena was served were described in
the Annual Report of the Subcommittee as “Communist
literature from Communist parties in various parts of
the world.”12 He also took the Fifth
Amendment when asked if he was a member of the CPUSA in
a hearing before the House Committee on Un-American
Activities (HCUA) on July 30, 1958. O`Dell, according to
an FBI report of 1962, was elected a member of the
National Committee of the CPUSA in December, 1959, and,
according to information submitted to HCUA in 1961, was
a member of the National Committee as of that year.13
As Garrow states, “no one, including O`Dell, denied
his work with the Communist Party from the late 1940s to
at least the late 1950s.” 14
O`Dell is an associate editor of
Freedomways, a magazine described in 1964 by J.
Edgar Hoover as an organ which the CPUSA “continues
to use as a vehicle of propaganda.” One of the
editors of Freedomways is Esther Jackson, a
member of the CPUSA and wife of James Jackson, a leader
of the CPUSA. O`Dell, as well as James Jackson, are
included in a “List of Members” of the World
Peace Council for 1980-1983. The World Peace Council,
long known as a Soviet-controlled front organization,
was described by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1982
as “the major Soviet-controlled international front
In October, 1962, various
newspapers in the United States, using information
provided them by the FBI, exposed O`Dell`s Communist
affiliations and his current ties to King and the SCLC.
King issued an inaccurate statement that sought to
minimize O`Dell`s work with the SCLC and accepted
O`Dell`s resignation. As Garrow states, “The
resignation … was more fiction than fact, as King`s
own message and appointment books for late 1962 and the
first half of 1963 reflect.”16 Further
news stories of June, 1963, which exposed O`Dell`s
continuing relationship with King and his presence in
the New York office of SCLC, coupled with warnings from
the Kennedy Administration led King again to accept the
resignation of O`Dell on July 3, 1963. Even after this
date, however, FBI surveillance showed a continuing
relationship between O`Dell and SCLC.
There is no doubt about O`Dell`s
extensive and high level activities in and for the
Communist Party, and his affiliations since 1961
strongly suggest continued adherence to and sympathy for
the CPUSA and the Soviet Union to the present day.
Despite these ties and King`s knowledge of them, King
promoted O`Dell within the SCLC at the behest of Levison
and retained his help after twice publicly claiming to
have disassociated himself from O`Dell following strong
and explicit warnings from the Kennedy Administration
about O`Dell`s Communist background and affiliations.
Southern Conference Educational
Stanley Levison and Hunter Pitts
O`Dell were not the only individuals of Communist
background with whom Martin Luther King was in contact
and from whom he received advice, although they were in
a better position than most to exert influence on him.
From the mid 1950s through at least the early 1960s,
King and the SCLC were closely involved with an
organization known as the Southern Conference
Educational Fund (SCEF), essentially a Communist front
organization. SCEF was itself dominated by the Communist
Party through the Party members who ran it, and some of
these individuals provided assistance to King and
exerted influence on him and the SCLC.
A. Background of SCEF
SCEF was originally founded as part
of an organization known as the Southern Conference on
Human Welfare (SCHW), founded in Birmingham, Alabama, on
September 6, 1938. SCHW was originally located in
Nashville, Tennessee, but later moved to New Orleans,
Louisiana. In 1947, the House Committee on Un-American
Activities issued a report on SCHW, which found:
Decisive and key posts [of SCHW] are in most instances
controlled by persons whose record is faithful to the
line of the Communist Party and the Soviet Union ….
Southern Conference for Human Welfare is perhaps the
most deviously camouflaged Communist-front organization.
When put to the following acid test it reveals its true
shows unswerving loyalty to the basic principles of
Soviet foreign policy.
has consistently refused to take sharp issue with the
activities and policies of either the Communist Party,
USA, or the Soviet Union.
has maintained in decisive posts persons who have the
confidence of the Communist press.
has displayed consistent anti-American bias and
pro-Soviet bias, despite professions, in generalities,
of love for America.17
In 1944 the Special Committee on
Un-American Activities (SCUA) of the House of
Representatives also cited SCHW as a Communist-front.
Soon after its identification as a
CPUSA front in 1947, SCHW was dissolved, but the
Southern Conference Educational Fund continued. SCEF
maintained the same address as SCHW (808 Perdido Street,
New Orleans, Louisiana) and published the same
periodical (The Southern Patriot). In 1954 the Senate
Subcommittee on Internal Security (SISS) held hearings
in New Orleans on SCEF and found that at least 11 former
officials of SCHW were or had been also officials of
SCEF. Among these were the President and Executive
Director of SCEF, both of whom were identified in
testimony taken under oath as having been members of the
CPUSA and as having been under the discipline of the
CPUSA. Both individuals in their own testimony denied
these allegations. The Subcommittee concluded in its
objective study of the entire record compels the
conclusion that the Southern Conference Educational
Fund, Inc., is operating with substantially the same
leadership and purposes as its predecessor organization,
the Southern Conference for Human Welfare.
subcommittee accordingly recommends that the Attorney
General take the necessary steps to present this matter
before the Subversive Activities Control Board in order
that a determination can be made as to the status of the
Southern Conference Educational Fund, Inc.19
B. Backgrounds of Individual
Leaders of SCEF
At least two key associates of
Martin Luther King were formally associated with SCEF as
well as with the SCLC itself. The Southern Christian
Leadership Conference, King`s principal vehicle for
civil rights activism, was officially founded in
Montgomery, Alabama on August 7-8, 1957. Among the
guests at the organizational meeting in Montgomery was
Ella J. Baker of New York City, of the “In Friendship”
organization? Baker was also formally associated with `
t” SCEF as of October, 1963, as a “Special Consultant .”
In 1958 Baker established SCLC headquarters in Atlanta,
Georgia, and was a longstanding friend of Martin Luther
King. She later played a key role in the Student
Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), an
organization that became notorious in the 1960s for its
advocacy and instigation of racial discord and violence.
John Lewis, a founder of SNCC, described Ella Baker as
“the spiritual mother, I guess you would call her, of
Little appears to be known of the
“In Friendship” organization of which Ella Baker was the
representative at the SCLC organizational meeting in
1957. However, Stanley Levison also was closely involved
with this organization in New York. According to Garrow,
Levison … had first become
involved in the southern civil rights struggle as one of
the most active sponsors of a New York group named In
Friendship. Organized in 1955 and 1956, In Friendship
provided financial assistance to southern blacks who had
suffered white retaliation because of their political
activity. In Friendship had sponsored a large May, 1956,
rally at Madison Square Garden to salute such southern
activists, and a good percentage of the funds raised
went to King`s Montgomery Improvement Association.22
It was Levison who, with Bayard
Rustin, sent Ella Baker to Atlanta to oversee the SCLC
office in that city, just as he had brought O`Dell into
the SCLC office in New York.
Fred L. Shuttlesworth,
corresponding secretary of SCLC in 1957, was in 1963 the
President and a former Vice-President of SCEF.
Shuttlesworth was responsible for the formation of the
Montgomery Improvement Association, through which King
and other civil rights activists became involved in
civil rights work. Several other individuals affiliated
with SCEF as organizational leaders were alleged under
oath to have been members of the Communist Party and to
have accepted Party discipline or can be shown to have
had ties to known Communist Party front organizations.
Internal documents of SCEF reveal that Martin Luther
King was in close contact with some of these leaders of
(1) Aubrey Williams:
President-Emeritus of SCEF in 1963, Williams had been
identified as a member of the CPUSA and as having
accepted the discipline of the Communist Party in the
testimony of two former members of the Party, Paul
Crouch and Joseph Butler, before SISS in 1954. Williams
denied these allegations.
(2) Dr. James A. Dombrowski:
Executive Director of SCEF, Dombrowski had also been
identified as a member of the Communist Party and as
having accepted Party discipline by witnesses Crouch and
Butler before SISS in 1954. Dombrowski denied these
(3) Carl Braden: Field Organizer
for SCEF, Braden was identified as a member of the CPUSA
in the testimony of Alberta Aheam, an FBI informant in
the Party, before SISS on October 28, 1957. Braden later
served as Executive Director of SCEF (1966-1970) and,
until 1973, Information Director of SCEF. Braden was
indicted and convicted of advocacy of criminal sedition
in the state of Kentucky in 1954 and was sentenced to
fifteen years imprisonment; the conviction was reversed
by the decision of the United States Supreme Court in
Pennsylvania v. Nelson, 350 U.S. 497 (1956), which
struck down state sedition laws. In 1959 Braden was
convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to answer
questions before HCUA. Braden served a year in a federal
penitentiary for this offense, and his conviction was
upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Braden`s wife, Anne
McCarty Braden, was also identified by Alberta Aheam as
a member of the Communist Party in testimony before SISS
in 1957. Anne Braden also was active within the
leadership of SCEF.24
(4) William Howard Melish: “Eastern
Representative” of SCEF (in New York City) in 1963,
Melish was identified as a member of the communist Party
in testimony before the Subversive Activities Control
Board (SACB) in 1956 in connection with SACB hearings on
the National Council of American Soviet Friendship,
described by HCUA as “the Communist Party`s principal
front for all things Russian” and included in the
Attorney General`s List of Subversive Organizations
pursuant to Executive Order 10450. William Howard Melish
is the father of Howard Jeffrey Melish (also known as
“Jeff Melish”), a member of the Students for a
Democratic Society (SDS) and of the violent
“Weatherman faction” of SDS. Jeff Melish was
arrested in Chicago during the violent “Days of Rage”
rioting organized by the Weatherman faction in 1969; he
attended the 9th World Youth Festival in Sofia,
Bulgaria, in 1968 and traveled to Cuba in 1970.25
(5) Benjamin E. Smith: Formerly
counsel to and in 1963 treasurer of SCEF, Smith was a
member of the executive board of the National Lawyers
Guild (NLG), repeatedly cited as a Communist front
organization, in 1956 and in 1962 was listed as
“Co-Secretary” of the NLG Committee to Assist Southern
Lawyers. In the 1950s Smith was active in the legal
defense of persons charged with violating the Smith Act,
and in at least one instance he was reported to have
received funds from the Emergency Civil Liberties
Committee, an organization also identified as a
Communist front organization.26
C. Internal Documents of SCEF
On October 4, 1963, state and local
police raided the headquarters of SCEF in New Orleans
and seized a number of internal documents, memoranda,
and letters. Much of this material shows extensive
involvement on the part of SCEF and its staff in the
activities of other CPUSA front organizations. Several
of the documents reveal a close relationship between
SCEF and Martin Luther King, Jr. These documents include
(I) An appeal to sign a petition to
President Kennedy for executive clemency for Carl
Braden, recently convicted of contempt of Congress for
his refusal to answer questions before HCUA. Among the
signatures on the appeal found in SCEF offices are those
of” (The Rev.) Martin Luther King, Jr., Atlanta, Ga.”
and of two former Presidents of SCEF (Aubrey Williams
and Edgar A. Love) and of a future President of SCEF,
Fred Shuttlesworth. In addition to King and
Shuttlesworth, other officers of the SCLC also signed
the appeal: Rev. C.K. Steele, first Vice-President of
SCLC, and Rev Ralph Abernathy treasurer, SCLC?
(2) A memorandum, dated January 18,
1963, from Carl Braden to Howard Melish (both of whom
had been identified as members of the Communist Party),
“IN RE MARTIN KING.” Complaining that “Martin King has a
bad habit of arriving late at meetings and sundry
affairs such as the one we are planning in NYC on Feb.
8,” Braden suggested, as a means to correct King`s
you or Jim Dombrowski should write him at his home,
asking him to come to a dinner with you or Mogulescu or
some of the key people …. The dinner invitation to his
home will serve to remind him of the engagement that
night and will also pin down whether he will be there?
The significance of this memorandum
is that it shows identified Communists (Braden, Melish,
and Dombrowski) planning the influencing and
manipulation of King for their own purposes. The
assumption of the memorandum is that Melish and
Dombrowski at least were close enough to King to invite
him to dinner and to expect to be able to exert
influence on him.
(3) A photograph of Martin Luther
King, Jr., Carl Braden, Anne Braden, and James A.
Dombrowski, with the legend on the back of the
photograph in the handwriting of Dombrowski, “The 6th
Annual Conference of the Southern Christian Leadership
Conference, Birmingham, Alabama, September 25 to 28,
(4) A check dated March 7, 1963 for
$167.74, issued by SCEF to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
with the notation “N.Y. exp.” (New York expenses), and
signed by Benjamin E. Smith and James A. Dombrowski,
treasurer and executive director of SCEF respectively.
The Southern Patriot of March, 1963` reported that King
“paid high tribute” to SCEF in his remarks at the
reception of the New York Friends of SCEF, and the UE
News, official organ of the United Electrical, Radio and
Machine Workers of America, reported on October 21,
1963, that King protested the seizure of the records of
SCEF in Louisiana and the arrest of two of its leaders
and an attorney during the course of his remarks? (5) A
letter on the stationery of SCEF apparently from
Dombrowski to Dr. Lee Lorch, dated August 2, 1963. Lee
Lorch was /identified as a member of the Communist Party
in testimony under oath by John J. Edmiston, a former
member of the Party, in a hearing before HCUA on July
12, 1950. The letter from Dombrowski to Lorch discusses
activities supportive of civil rights legislation then
being considered in the Congress, and proposes the
As part of a massive letter writing
campaign, we propose to place a full-page ad in at least
one newspaper in each of these 15 states.
We enclose a layout and text for
the ad to be signed by the Southern Christian Leadership
Conference; Dr. Martin Luther King, president; the
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; and SCEF.
SCEF will raise the money. It will
take about $10,000 to place the ad in one newspaper in
each of the 15 states, $20,000 in two papers per state,
(6) A memorandum from Dombrowski to
members of the executive committee of SCEF, dated June
20, 1962, “RE: ATLANTA CONFERENCE ON CIVIL RIGHTS AND
CIVIL LIBERTIES.`, The memorandum states in part:
For almost a year the staff has
been discussing with various leaders in Atlanta the
possibility of a Southwide conference in that city on
civil rights and civil liberties. There has been a most
encouraging response. Most gratifying is the interest
shown by a number of organizations which in the past
have not publicly associated themselves with projects in
which the SCEF was involved.
…. the Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker of
SCEF has promised his cooperation, including the
personal participation of the SCLC president, Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr?
(7) A letter, dated July 27, 1963,
from Carl Braden to James Dombrowski, which states in
pressure that has been put on Martin [Luther King, Jr.]
about [Hunter Pitts] O`Dell helps to explain why he has
been ducking us. I suspected there was something of this
sort in the wind.
has carried a story quoting Martin as saying they have
dumped O`Dell for the second time because of fear that
the segreationists [sic] would use it against them. He
expressed no distaste for Communists or their beliefs,
merely puts it on the pragmatic basis that SCLC can`t
handle the charges of Communism. This is a quite
think it is best to let Martin and SCLC alone until they
feel like coming around to us. They`ll be back when the
Kennedys and other assorted other [deleted] opportunists
with whom they are now consorting have wrung all
usefulness out of them-or rather when they have become a
liability rather than an asset. Right now the
Red-baiters in New York are holding Martin and SCLC as
prisoners through offers of large sums of money. We
shall see if they get the money and, if they do, how
much of a yoke it puts upon them?
be recalled that in the summer of 1963, President
Kennedy had urged King to sever relations with O`Dell
and that King had appeared to do so by accepting
O`Dell`s resignation from SCLC. FBI surveillance showed,
however, that O`Dell continued to frequent the New York
office of SCLC.
The documents cited above show
clearly (a) that individuals in the leadership of SCEF,
identified in testimony under oath as members of the
Communist Party or generally well known for their
activities on behalf of Communism, considered themselves
to be on close terms with Martin Luther King and in a
position to exert influence on him, and (b) that King
himself had no objection to working with identified
Communists except on the “pragmatic basis” that
Communist affiliation might lend his activities a
negative public image and be counter-productive. Indeed,
King appears to have worked closely with individuals
generally identified as Communists.
King`s Activities on Behalf of
Other Communist or Communist Front Groups:
In addition to his association and cooperation with SCEF and its leaders, Martin Luther King also associated and cooperated with a number of groups known to be CPUSA front organizations or to be heavily penetrated and influenced by members of the Communist Party. On October 4, 1967, Congressman John M. Ashbrook of Ohio, at that time the ranking minority member of the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities and an authoritative spokesman on internal security matters, inserted in the Congressional Record extensive documentation of King’s activities in this regard: 34
(1) Martin Luther King, Jr. was listed as a sponsor of the National Appeal for Freedom, held in Washington, D.C., November 19-21, 1960, of the Committee to Secure Justice for Morton Sobell, a group identified as a Communist front organization by HCUA and SISS in 1956.
(2) King sent a congratulatory telegram to the 27th annual convention of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) in 1962. UE was expelled from the Congress of Industrial Organizations (C.I.O.) in 1949 on grounds that it was dominated by Communists, and in 1944 the SCUA, in a report on the C.1.O. Political Action Committee, found that
the 600,000 members of the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (employed in many of the most vital American defense industries) are submitting to an entrenched Communist leadership…?
(3) In May, 1962, King addressed the convention of the United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA). Stanley Levison wrote this speech. Charles Hayes of Chicago of UPWA was a guest at the founding meeting of the SCLC in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1957 (with Ella J. Baker of “In Friendship”). The Annual Report of HCUA for 1959 states that Charles A. Hayes of Chicago had been identified as a member of the Communist Party by t~’o witnesses: by John Hackney, a former member of the Communist Party who had served as a Communist in several Party units within the meat-packing industry, and by Carl Nelson, “who stated that he had attended many Communist Party meetings with Mr. Hayes.”36 In 1952, in testimony before HCUA, witness Roy Thompson, a former member of the Communist Party and a former official of UPWA in Chicago, stated that he had attended Communist training meetings in which instructions in Communism were given by “a Mr. Charley Hayes?7 In 1959, witness Carl Nelson, a former Communist and worker in the meatpacking industry, testified before HCUA that “the Communist Party deliberately sought to infiltrate its members into the meatpacking industry” because “they would be in an excellent position to cut off food for the Armed Forces” in the event of war? Mr. Nelson also identified as having been Communists the editor of the official organ of the UPWA, two field representatives of the union, a departmental director of the union, a district secretary-treaurer of the union, a secretary in the international office of the union, and a former president of a local of the UPWA, in addition to Mr. Hayes, who was a district director of the UPWA, and his secretary?
(4) Martin Luther King was a luncheon speaker at a conference in Atlanta, Georgia, of the National Lawyers Guild Committee to Assist Southern Lawyers, held on November 30 and December 1, 1962. The National Lawyers Guild was cited several times as a Communist front, and in 1962 the Committee stationery listed Benjamin E. Smith, cosecretary of the Committee and treasurer of SCEF and Arthur Kinoy, as affiliated with it. Kinoy is reported by Garrow to have been a friend of Stanley Levison and to have recommended William Kunstler as an attorney to Levison for the latter’s appearance before SISS in April, 1962.40
(5) King also lent his support to the National Committee to Abolish the Committee on Un-American Activities, identified as a Communist Party front by HCUA in 1961. Seven of the thirteen founders of this~is organization were identified as having been members of the CPUSA, including William Howard Melish. Carl Braden was also active in the Committee, as was Anne Braden?
(6) King also assisted in the initiation of appeals for executive clemency for Carl Braden and, in 1962, for Junius Scales, former chairman of the North Carolina-South Carolina district of the Communist Party and sentenced to a six-year prison term for violation of the Smith Act?
(7) Highlander Folk School: One of the most controversial aspects of King’s career concerns his association with the Highlander Folk School of Monteagle, Tennessee, and the nature of the school. In the 1960s groups in opposition to King frequently publicized a photograph showing King at the school, which was described as a “Communist training school,” sitting in the company of persons alleged to be Communists or pro-Communists.
This photograph is an authentic one, taken on September 2, 1957, when King addressed the 25th anniversary celebration of the Highlander Folk School. Shown in the photograph sitting adjacent to King are Abner Berry, a correspondent for the Communist Party newspaper, the Daily Worker; Aubrey Williams, identified as a member of the CPUSA and President of SCEF; and Myles Horton, a founder and director of the Highlander Folk School. Although Myles Horton was not identified as a member of the Communist Party, a witness before SISS in 1954 and a former member for seventeen years and a former official and organizer for the Party, Paul Crouch, testified that he had solicited Horton to join the Party:
At that meeting after we discussed the [Highlander Folk] school I asked Mr. Horton to become a formal member of the Communist Party and his reply was, as near as I can recall his words, “I’m doing you just as much good now as I would if I were a member of the Communist Party. i am often asked if I am a Communist Party member and I always say no. I feel much safer in having no fear that evidence might be uncovered to link me with the Communist Party, and therefore I prefer not to become a member of the Communist Party.”43
Crouch also testified that Horton had been affiliated with the Southern Conference Educational Fund and with its predecessor organization, the Southern Conference for Human Welfare.44
The Highlander Folk School (HFS) was founded in 1932 by Myles Horton and became well known for its involvement in a number of leftist causes. Both Aubrey Williams and James Dombrowski, each of whom was identified as a member of the Communist Party, were affiliated with HFS. Paul Crouch, who had been district organizer for the state of Tennessee for the Communist Party, described in his testimony the uses of the HFS for the Party as they were developed in a conference that included himself, Horton, and Dombrowski:
The purpose of the conference was to work out a plan by which the Daily Worker would be purchased by the school. They would be made accessible to the students, that everywhere possible the instructors should refer to the Daily Worker, to news that had come in it, to encourage the students to read it, and it was agreed that the Communist, Party should have a student, a leader, sent there as a student whose job it would be to look around for prospective recruits and Mildred White, now in Washington, D.C., was selected to attend the Highlander Folk School for the purpose of recruiting for the Communist Party and carrying the Communist Party line among the student body there.MR. ARENS [Special Counsel to the Subcommittee]: You said it was agreed? Who agreed?
MR. CROUCH: Mr. Horton and Mr. Dombrowski.45
Based on this information and considerable evidence of a similar nature collected by the Joint Legislative Committee on Un-American Activities of the state of Louisiana in 1963 and by other investigative bodies, it is not inaccurate to describe the Highlander Folk School as a Communist, or at least a pro-Communist, training school.
Although Martin Luther King, Jr. was present only briefly at HFS on September 2, 1957, when the photograph was taken, his relations with HFS appear to have been prolonged and positive. On February 23, 1961, the New York Times reported that
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference … and the Highlander Folk School have joined forces to train Negro leaders for the civil rights struggle.46
In 1962 the Highlander Center opened in Knoxville, Tennessee, with Myles Horton on the board of directors. In December, 1962, Martin Luther king, jr. Was listed as a sponsor of the highlander center on its letterhead?7
Martin Luther King and the Vietnam War
As the Vietnam war escalated in the mid 1960s, Martin Luther King became one of the most outspoken critics of U.S. policy and involvement in Vietnam. It is probable that Stanley Levison in particular encouraged King’s criticism, since Levison himself was also critical of the war and wrote President Johnson to urge American withdrawal from Vietnam, describing American policy in Vietnam as “completely irrational, illegal and immoral” and as supportive of “a succession of undemocratic regimes which are opposed by a majority of the people of South Vietnam.”48 FBI surveillance of King showed that Levison “was urging King to speak out publicly against American military involvement in Vietnam?9
On December 28-30, 1966, a conference was held at the University of Chicago to discuss and make plans for a nationwide student strike against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war. This conference, which led to a week of demonstrations against the war known as “Vietnam Week,” April 8-15, 1967, was initiated by Bettina Aptheker, daughter of Communist Party theoretician and member of the National Committee of the CPUSA Herbert Aptheker, and herself a member of the CPUSA. The Chicago conference, as a report of the HCUA found, “was instigated and dominated by the Communist Party, U.S.A., and the W.E.B. DuBois Clubs of America,” described by Attorney General Katzenbach in 1966 as “substantially directed, dominated and controlled by the Communist Party?49
The scheduled after-dinner speaker at the Chicago conference was Rev. James L. Bevel, of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, who had been released from his duties with SCLC by Martin Luther King in order to serve as national director of the Spring Mobilization Committee To End the War in Vietnam, an organization found by the HCUA to be heavily influenced, supported, and penetrated by Communists and in which “Communists are playing a dominant role.” Bevel joined the DuBois Clubs as a co-plaintiff in a suit to prevent the Subversive Activities Control Board (SACB) from holding hearings on the DuBois Clubs as petitioned by Attorney General Katzenbach, and Bevel was a sponsor of Vietnam Week and of the Chicago conference that initiated it? The report of the HCUA concluded that
the proposal for a nationwide student strike was completely Communist in origin ….Communists are playing dominant roles in both the Student Mobilization Committee and the Spring Mobilization Committee. Further, these two organizations have unified their efforts and are cooperating completely in their purpose of staging on April 15  the largest demonstrations against the war in Vietnam ever to take place in this country….Dr. Martin Luther King’s agreement to play a leading role in the April 15 demonstrations in New York City, and his freeing Rev. James Bevel from his key position in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to head up the Spring Mobilization Committee, are evidence that the Communists have succeeded, at least partially, in implementing their strategy of fusing the Vietnam and civil rights issues in order to strengthen their chances of bringing about a reversal of U.S. policy in Vietnam.52
The major statement of Martin Luther King on the Vietnam war is contained in a speech he delivered at the Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967, a few days prior to the beginning of “Vietnam Week.” Analysis of this speech shows that King’s criticism of U.S. policy in Vietnam was not based on a consideration of American national interests and security nor on a belief in pacifism and non-violence but on an ideological view of the Vietnam conflict that is indistinguishable from the Marxist and New Left perspective?
King portrayed U.S. troops in Vietnam as foreign conquerors and oppressors, and he specifically compared the United States to Nazi Germany:
They [the South Vietnamese people] move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met …. They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops ….So far we may have killed a million of them-mostly children. What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe?
King described the U.S. government as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” and President Ngo Dinh Diem as “one of the most vicious modern dictators,” but he spoke of Ho Chi Minh, the Communist dictator of North Vietnam, as a national leader and the innocent victim of American aggression:
Perhaps only his [Ho Chi Minh’s] sense of humor and of irony can save him when he hears the most powerful nation of the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands of bombs on a poor weak nation more than 8,000 miles away from its shores.
The Communists, in King’s view, were the true victims in Vietnam:
in Hanoi are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the French …. After 1954 they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which would surely have brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again.
In King’s view, the National Liberation Front (NLF), the political arm of the Viet Cong terrorists controlled by North Vietnam, was “that strangely anonymous group we call VC or Communists,” which consisted of a membership that “is less than 25 per cent communist.”
King might have been interested to learn of the television interview given in France on February 16, 1983 by North Vietnamese generals Vo Nguyen Giap and Vo Bam. As reported by The Economist (London) in its issue of 26 February, 1983:
General Bam admitted the decision to unleash an armed revolt against the Saigon government was taken by a North Vietnamese communist party plenum in 1959. This was a year before the National Liberation Front was set up in South Vietnam. The aim, General Bam added, was ‘to reunite the country.’ So much for that myth that the Vietcong was an autonomous southern force which spontaneously decided to rise against the oppression of the Diem regime. And General Bam should know. As a result of the decision, he was given the job of opening an infiltration trail in the south. The year was still 1959. That was two years before President Kennedy stepped up American support for Diem by sending 685 advisers to South Vietnam. So much for the story that the Ho Chi Minh trail was established only to counteract the American military build-up ….General Barn got his orders on May 19, 1959. ‘Absolute secrecy, absolute security were our watchwords,’ he recalled?
King included himself as one of those who
deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.
Apart from the arrogance and ingratitude displayed by these remarks, it is a logical implication of this self-proclaimed universal humanism that King should have denounced Communist atrocities and tyranny at least as strongly as those he attributed to his own country. Yet throughout King’s speech there is not a single word of criticism, let alone of condemnation, for North Vietnam or for Ho Chi Minh, for Ho’s internal and external policies by which a totalitarian state was created and its institutions were imposed on adjacent states, for the use of terrorism by the Viet Cong or for the terrorism and systematic repression perpetrated by the Communists in North Vietnam.
King portrayed American policy in Vietnam and U.S. foreign policy in general as motivated by a “need to maintain social stability for our investments” and formulated by men who refuse “to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.” He saw “individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries.”
King, in other words, did not dissent from U.S. policy in Vietnam because he was concerned for the best interests of the United States or because of moral and humanitarian beliefs. His opposition to the war was drawn from an ideological (and false) view of American foreign policy as motivated by capitalist and imperialist forces that sought only their own material satisfaction and which were responsible for “the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism.”
This view of American foreign policy is fundamentally Marxist, and it parallels the theory of Lenin in his Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism. It was a doctrine that became increasingly fashionable in New Left circles of the late 1960s and 1970s, although it has been subjected to devastating scholarly criticism.
Public reaction to King’s speech on Vietnam was largely negative. The Washington Post, in an editorial of April 6, 1967, said that the speech “was filled with bitter and damaging allegations and inferences that he did not and could not document.”
He has no doubts that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam and thinks it will become clear that our “minimal expectation is to occupy it as an American colony.”… It is one thing to reproach a government for what it has done and said; it is quite another to attribute to it policies it has never avowed and purposes it has never entertained and then to rebuke it for these sheer inventions of unsupported fantasy.
Life magazine, in its issue of April 21, 1967, described King’s speech as “a demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi.” Carl Rowan wrote that King “has alienated many of the Negro’s friends and armed the Negro’s foes … by creating the impression that the Negro is disloyal.”55 John P. Roche, a former director of Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), in a memorandum to President Johnson, wrote that King’s speech “indicates that King-in desperate search of a constituency-has thrown in with the commies.”56
Conclusion: Was Martin Luther King a Communist?
As stated earlier in this report, there is no evidence that Martin Luther King was a member of the Communist Party, but the pattern of his activities and associations in the 1950s and 1960s show clearly that he had no strong objection to working with and even relying on Communists or persons and groups whose relationships with the Communist Party were, at the least, ambiguous. It should be recalled that in this period of time (far more than today) many liberal and even radical groups on the left shared a strong awareness of and antipathy for the anti-democratic and brutal nature of Communism and its characteristically deceptive and subversive tactics. It is doubtful that many American liberals would have associated or worked with many of the persons and groups with whom King not only was close but on whom he was in several respects dependent. These associations and, even more, King’s refusal to break with them, even at the expense of public criticism and the alienation of the Kennedy Administration, strongly suggest that King harbored a strong sympathy for the Communist Party and its goals.
This conclusion is reinforced by King’s own political comments and views-not only by the speech on Vietnam discussed above but also by a series of other remarks made toward the end of his life. King apparently harbored sympathy for Marxism, at least in its economic doctrines, from the time of his education in divinity school. The Rev. J. Plus Barbour, described by Garrow as “perhaps King’s closest friend” while at Crozer Theological Seminary from 1948 to 1951, believed that King “was economically a Marxist …. He thought the capitalistic system was predicated on exploitation and prejudice, poverty, and that we wouldn’t solve these problems until we got a new social order.”57 King was critical of capitalism in sermons of 1956 and 1957, and in 1967 he told the staff of the SCLC, “We must recognize that we can’t solve our problems now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power.”58 In 1968 he told an interviewer that
America is deeply racist and its democracy is flawed both economically and socially …. the black revolution is much more than a struggle for the rights of Negroes. It is forcing America to face all its interrelated flaws-racism, poverty, militarism, and materialism. It is exposing evils that are rooted deeply in the whole structure of our society. It reveals systemic rather than superficial flaws and suggests that radical reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced.59
In 1967, in his remarks to the SCLC staff, he argued that
For the last twelve years we have been in a reform movement …. But after Selma and the voting rights bill we moved into a new era, which must be an era of revolution. ! think we must see the great distinction here between a reform movement and a revolutionary movement [which would] raise certain basic questions about the whole society ….this means a revolution of values and of other things?
In 1968 he publicly stated, “We are engaged in the class struggle.”61
King’s view of American society was thus not fundamentally different from that of the CPUSA or of other Marxists. While he is generally remembered today as the pioneer for civil rights for blacks and as the architect of non-violent techniques of dissent and political agitation, his hostility to and hatred for America should be made clear. While there is no evidence that King was a member of the Communist Party, his associations with persons close to the Party, his cooperation with and assistance for groups controlled or influenced by the Party, his efforts to disguise these relationships from public view and from his political allies in the Kennedy Administration, and his views of American society and foreign policy all suggest that King may have had an explicit but clandestine relationship with the Communist Party or its agents to promote through his own stature, not the civil rights of blacks or social justice and progress, but the totalitarian goals and ideology of Communism. While there is no evidence to demonstrate this speculation, it is not improbable that such a relationship existed. in any case, given the activities and associations of Martin Luther King described in this report, there is no reason to disagree with the characterization of King made by Congressman John M. Ashbrook on the floor of the House of Representatives on October 4, 1967: “King has consistently worked with Communists and has helped give them a respectability they do not deserve” and “I believe he has done more for the Communist Party than any other person of this decade.”62
On January 31, 1977, in the cases of Bernard S. Lee v. Clarence M. Kelley, et al. (U.S.D.C., D.C.) and Southern Christian Leadership Conference v. Clarence M. Kelley, et al. (U.S.D.C., D.C.), United States District Judge John Lewis Smith, Jr., ordered that the Federal Bureau of Investigation purge its files of: all known copies of the recorded tapes, and transcripts thereof, resulting from the FBI’s microphonic surveillance, between 1963 and 1968, of the plaintiffs’ former president, Martin Luther King, Jr.; and
all known copies of the tapes, transcripts and logs resulting from the FBI’s telephone wiretapping, between 1963 and 1968, of the plaintiffs’ offices in Atlanta, Georgia and New York, New York, the home of Martin Luther King, Jr., and places of accommodation occupied by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Judge Smith also ordered that
at the expiration of the said ninety (90) day period, the Federal Bureau of Investigation shall deliver to this Court under seal an inventory of said tapes and documents and shall deliver said tapes and documents to the custody of the National Archives and Records Service, to be maintained by the Archivist of the United States under seal for a period of fifty (50) years; and it is further ORDERED that the Archivist of the United States shall take such actions as are necessary to the preservation of said tapes and documents but shall not disclose the tapes or documents, or their contents, except pursuant to a specific Order from a court of competent jurisdiction requiring disclosure.
This material was delivered to the custody of the National Archives and Record Service to be maintained by the Archivist of the United States under a seal for a period of fifty years.
1 Most of this section is drawn from David J. Garrow, The FBl and Martin Luther King, Jr.: From “Solo” to Memphis (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1981), esp. pp. 21-78.
2 Ibid., p.41.
3 United States, Department of Justice, Report of the Task Force to Review the FBI Martin Luther King. Jr., Security and Assassination Investigations, January 11, 1977, pp. 121-22.
4 Victor S. Navasky, Kennedy Justice (New York: Atheneum, 1971), pp. 162-63.
5 Quoted in Garrow, FBI, p. 28.
6 Quoted in Garrow, FBI, p. 61.
8 Ibid., p. 62
9 Ibid., p. 63.
10 Ibid., quoted, p. 95.
11 Ibid., p. 151.
12 United States, Congress, Senate, Report of the Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws, Committee on the Judiciary, 84th Congress, 2nd Session, for the Year 1956, Section III, December 31, 1956, p. 46. (Publications of this Subcommittee hereinafter cited as SISS).
13 United States, Congress, House of Representatives, Structure and Organization of the Communist Party of the United States, Part 1, Hearings before the Committee on Un-American Activities, 87th Congress, 1st Session, November 20, 21, and 22, 1961, Testimony of Francis J. McNamara, p. 576. (Publications of this Committee hereinafter cited as HCUA).
14 Garrow, FBI, p. 50.
15 World Peace Council, List of Members, 1980-1983 (Helsinki, Finland: Information Centre of the World Peace Council), pp. 141-42; for O’Dell’s background, see Review of the News, July 13, 1983, pp. 49-50; Soviet Active Measures, Hearings before the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, House of Representatives, 97th Congress, 2nd Session, July 13, 14, 1982, p. 57.
16 Garrow, FBI, p. 50.
l7 HCUA, Report on Southern Conference on Human Welfare, 80th Congress, 1st Session, June 16, 1947, pp. 2 and 17.
18 HCUA, Guide to Subversive Organizations and Publications (and Appendixes,) Revised and published December 1, 1961 to supersede Guide published on January 2, 1957, p. 154 (hereinafter cited as Guide).
19 SISS. Southern Conference Educational Fund, Inc.. Hearings, March 18, 19, and 20, 1954, p. VIII.
20 Trezz Anderson, “New Rights Group Launched in Dixie,” Pittsburgh Courier, August 17, 1957, p. 2; this article misprints “In Friendship” as “in Fellowship.”
21 Robert H. Brisbane, Black Activism: Racial Revolution in the United States, 1954-1970 (Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson Press, 1974), p. 49; see also the masthead of The Southern Patriot of October, 1963, reproduced in State of Louisiana, The Joint Legislative Committee on Un-American Activities, Report No. 4. November 19, 1963, “Activities of the Southern Conference Educational Fund, Inc. in Louisiana” Part 1, p. 74, Exhibit 29 (hereinafter cited as JLCUA).
22 Garrow, FBI, p. 26.
23 SISS, Southern Conference Educational Fund, Inc. Hearings, pp, Vi and VII.
24 SISS, Communism in the Mid-South, Hearinqs, October 218 and 29, 1957, Testimony of Alberta Ahearn, p. 37; John M. Ashbrook, “Rev. Martin Luther King: Man of Peace or Apostle of Violence,” Congressional Record, October 4, 1967, p. H13013.
25 JLCUA, p. 14; Guide, pp, 117-18; United States, Congress, House of Representatives, Special Committee on Un-American Activities, Report on the C.I.O. Political Action Committee, 78th Congress, 2nd Session, March 29, 1944, p. 156; United States, Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Foreign Influence – Weather Underground Organization (WUO), August 20, 1976, p. 332.
26 See Guide, p. 1212, for citations of the National Lawyers Guild as a Communist front; JLCUA, pp. 14-16.
27 JLCUA, p. 86, Exhibit 37.
28 Ibid., p. 97, Exhibit 41.
29 Ibid., p. 100, Exhibit 43a.
30 Ibid., p. 101; Exhibits 44 and 44a; Ashbrook, Congressional Record, October 4, 1967, p. H13012.
31 JLCUA, p. 102, Exhibit 45; for the identification of Lee Lorch as a member of the Communist Party, see HCUA, “Hearings Regarding Communist Activities in the Cincinnati, Ohio, Area — Part I,” 81st Congress, 2nd Session, July 12, 13, 14, and 15; August 8, 1950, p. 2675.
32 JLCUA, p. 104, Exhibit 46.
33 Ibid., p. 106, Exhibits 47 and 47a.
34 Ashbrook, Congressional Record, October 4, 1967, pp. H13005- H13017 passim.
35 Report on the C.I.O. Political Action Committee, p. 183.
36 For Hayes’s presence at the SCLC meeting in Montgomery, see Trezz Anderson, Pittsburgh Courier, August 17, 1957, p. 2, where Hayes’s name is given as “Chris Hayes, United Packing-house Workers … of Chicago.” And see HCUA, Annual Report, 1959, p. 40.
37 HCUA, “Communist Activities in the Chicago Area-Part 2 (Local 347, United Packinghouse Workers of America, CIO),” Hearings, 82nd Congress, 2rid Session, September 4 and 5, 1952, Testimony of Roy Thompson, p. 3767.
38 HCUA, Annual Report, 1959, pp. 37-38.
39 Ibid., pp. 38-39.
40 Ashbrook, Congressional Record, October 4, 1967, p. H13010; JLCUA, p. 75, Exhibit 30.
41 Ashbrook, Congressional Record, October 4, 1967, pp. H13011 – H13013.
42 Ibid., pp. H13010-13011.
43 SISS, Southern Conference Educational Fund, Inc.,Hearings, Testimony of Paul Crouch, p. 136.; see also Ashbrook, Congressional Record, pp. H13000-H13012; and JLCUA, pp. 23-37.
44 SISS, Southern Conference Educational Fund, Inc., Hearings, Testimony of Paul Crouch, p. 137.
45 Ibid., pp. 135-36.
46 Quoted, Ashbrook, Congressional Record, October 4, 1967, p. HI3011.
47 Ibid., p. H13012.
48 Garrow, FBI, pp. 137-38.
49 Ibid., p. 139.
5o HCUA, Communist Origins and Manipulation of Vietnam Week (April 8-15, 1967), Report, March 31, 1967, pp. 53 and 5.
51 Ibid., pp. 25-26, 53, 33-37.
52 Ibid., p. 53.
53 The text of King’s speech, “Beyond Vietnam,” was inserted by Congressman Don Edwards, “Dr. Martin Luther King on Vietnam,” Congressional Record, May 2, 1967, pp. 11402-11406; all quotations given below are from this text.
54 “Vietnam: We Lied to You,” The Economist (London), 26 February 1983, pp. 56-57.
55 Carl T. Rowan, “Martin Luther King’s Tragic Decision,” Reader’s Digest (September, 1967), p. 42; for further negative reactions, see Garrow, FBI, pp. 180-81.
56 Quoted in Garrow, FBI, p. 180.
57 Garrow, FBI, p. 304, p. 25.
58 Ibid., pp. 213-14. 59 Ibid., p. 214.
62 Ashbrook, Congressional Record, October 4, 1967, p. H13005.