In the recent Trump-ordered release of JFK documents, a small cache of FBI papers analysing Dr Martin Luther King Junior’s behaviour weeks before his assassination has surfaced with the publication. Why the MLK documents were released with the JFK disclosure is still unclear, but raises more questions to the possible involvement of the US government in the peace leader’s death.

Both documents support the once-conspiracy theory that the FBI heavily monitored King and his counterparts’ movements and connections, both domestically and internationally.

In the 1967 document dated October 3, the FBI noted the movements of New York City attorney Stanley Levison. The then principal advisor to King, was planning a trip to Moscow to discuss the Vietnam war. According to the document released, the meeting was an invitation to attend a conference of Noble Peace Prize winners. However, (most likely) in light of the political climate at the time, Levison had declined to attend, and the document ends with Levison being labelled a secret member of the Communist Party in the United States.

But it is with the declassification of the 1968 document, dated March 12 and titled Martin Luther King, Jr., A Current Analysis, that the FBI involvement deepens.

The 20-page dossier covers the potential explosive situation of black nationalist terror and the “communist” objectives of King’s leadership. It notes Senate hearings; the Anti-Vietnam War resolution; and King’s role as a peacemaker. The introduction recognized then, the historical importance of King’s leadership in domestic race relations, and also in international relations to disrupt the United States’ imperial objectives in the Vietnam War.

The dossier is preoccupied with communist ideology espoused by King and his civil movement, noting the open attacks against US policy in Vietnam, and gaining popularity amongst the black and multi-denominations in religious communities. The document also suggests King cannot be bought off by those in power; but to align with those of his own antiwar policy, receiving financial contributions from the likes of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, actor Harry Belafonte, and the Ford Foundation.

But it is with the purported use of the Ford Foundation donations that the dossier focuses on, using King’s sexual encounters as a means to morally discredit the leader. Not uncommon in the 1960s, and even today, was the puritan action to relate sexual quirks with a person’s character. The document notes how the Ford Foundation’s funds were used to support workshops to train ministers in urban leadership, which supposedly led to a single “behind-the-scene[s] . . . all-night sex orgy” with prostitutes and delegates.

This single act is used by the FBI to discredit all actions by King to rally for peace and equality, even though unsubstantiated by their own admittance, noting an unnamed minister’s disgust.

King’s relationship with communist Levison was used to justify government surveillance at the time. The 20-page dossier, compiled and published only 3 weeks before King’s assassination, was refused release by the government in August 1994 under a “Total Denial” banner. Although the release of these documents amongst the JFK files raises questions of why they are present, it remains evident that the intentions of the US government for Martin Luther King, Jr. to fail in his quest for peace were of upmost importance.

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