The Wall Between
by Anne Braden
Remarks of Senator Jesse Helms
Congressional Record, October 3, 1983, Vol. 129, No. 130, pages S 13452 through S 13461.
Jump down to remarks concerning the Bradens.
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
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. Levison1
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 t972. 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 following year.
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 movement.
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
The 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.
On 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
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 and 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."1 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
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 King:
(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 is concerned.
(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 not friendly.
(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
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 perspective.
(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, DO J, 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
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,
and 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 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
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
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,ship 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:
...if 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,10
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.~3 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 organization." 15
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."~6 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
Southern Conference Educational Fund
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 ....
The 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
1. It shows unswerving loyalty to the basic principles
of Soviet foreign policy.
2. It has consistently refused to take sharp issue with
the activities and policies of either the Communist
Party, USA, or the Soviet Union.
3. It has maintained in decisive posts persons who have
the confidence of the Communist press.
4. It 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
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 report that
an 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
The 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,
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 S.N.C.C." 21
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 P~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
(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
next Braden reference
(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 the
(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 habit, that
either 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, 1962."29
next Braden reference
(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 following:
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, etc?
(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
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
.... 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 part:
next Braden reference
The 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.
The UPI 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 interesting development.
So I 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
It will 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
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) Marti;, 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
of the CPUSA, including William Howard Melish. Carl Braden was
also active in the Committee, as was Anne Braden?
End of Braden references.
(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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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),
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
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-
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.
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 -
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.
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.