A shocking new report has been published that claims that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not the moral man we were taught about in school.
In an extensive and exhaustive piece on Standpoint.com, King biographer David J. Garrow disclosed research he conducted on Dr. King from documents he discovered at the National Archives.
The documents he cites are from FBI investigations into King during the height of the civil rights movement.
And they are disturbing.
If the story is true, then this will require a complete revaluation of Dr. King’s moral legacy.
This is the first in a two-part series. In this article I will detail the main findings from Mr. Garrow’s report. Part two will be a discussion piece on the implications for King’s legacy, as well as a discussion of how we should remember other historical figures who committed grave sins.
“The Troubling Legacy of Martin Luther King”
Mr. Garrow’s article was published on the British website “StandPoint.” It should be noted that Garrow is a lifelong biographer of Martin Luther King. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his 1987 biography of King. This isn’t unchartered territory for him; he has covered MLK extensively over several decades.
The subheading of his report is titled: “Newly-revealed FBI documents portray the great civil rights leader as a sexual libertine who ‘laughed’ as a forcible rape took place.”
That headline will get your attention.
The report begins by giving an overview of his findings:
“Newly-released documents reveal the full extent of the FBI’s surveillance of the civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King in the mid-1960’s. They expose in graphic detail the FBI’s intense focus on King’s extensive extramarital sexual relationships with dozens of women, and also his presence in a Washington hotel room when a friend, a Baptist Minister, allegedly raped one of his “parishioners”, while King ‘looked on and offered advice.’ The FBI’s tape recording of that criminal assault still exists today, resting under court seal in a National Archives vault.”
It has been known for years that Dr. King was a serial adulterer. However, this report details the encounters in graphic detail. What was not known was the allegation that King witnessed a rape and helped egg the perpetrator on. If this is true, this would be a devastating blow to his personal legacy.
There are countless references to “group orgies” and allegations of sexual abuse in the FBI documents.
It should be noted that the FBI had a clear bias against Martin Luther King and justified their investigation of him on the basis that he was working with communists. However, that doesn’t mean that the allegations aren’t true. Two things can be true at once: the FBI violated King’s constitutional rights and King committed heinous sexual acts. More will be revealed in 2027, when the wiretaps and recordings are released to the public. They are currently under a court seal until that time.
The most salacious allegation revolves around the alleged rape committed in front of King.
Garrow reported the alleged crime in disturbing detail:
“The group met in his room and discussed which women among the parishioners would be suitable for natural or unnatural sex acts. When one of the women protested that she did not approve of this, the Baptist minister immediately and forcibly raped her, the typed summary states, parenthetically citing a specific FBI document (100-3-116-762) as its source. ‘King looked on, laughed and offered advice.’”
The F.B.I later tried to blackmail King by sending him the recordings. The agent in charge, William C. Sullivan, sent the recordings to King and urged him to commit suicide so the contents weren’t revealed to the public.
Sullivan’s hateful letter stated, “You will find on the record for all time audio evidence of your adulterous acts, your sexual orgies involving various evil playmates.”
There is no doubt the FBI had it out for King. That doesn’t mean that the allegations weren’t true and could pose a serious threat to King’s reputation. An evaluation of his personal character may be in the offing.
Garrow reflected this sentiment when he said, “King’s far-from monogamous lifestyle, like his binge-drinking, may fit albeit uncomfortably within his existing story, but the suggestion—actually more than one—that he either actively tolerated or personally employed violence against women, even while drunk, poses so fundamental a challenge to his historical stature as to require the most complete and extensive historical review possible.”
He is correct. This could be painful for many Americans who have long placed Dr. King on a pedestal — myself included. It is difficult to square these acts of depravity with his great achievements in life. However, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.
In part two, I will discuss how we should evaluate the legacies of historical figures who have achieved great things in life, while at the same time, have committed heinous acts.