J. Edgar Hoover: Memo on Martin Luther King

(1965)

Explanation and Analysis of the Document

Throughout the 1950s and early to mid-1960s, Hoover directed investigations of members and spokespersons of various social and political movements in the United States, including the New Left, the anti–Vietnam War movement, and student activist groups. Prominently, he investigated the possibility of ties between Communism and the civil rights movement. As arguably the most prominent civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., was a target of intense FBI investigation.

In a memo to Deputy Director Clyde Tolson and others (dated July 6, 1965), Hoover summarizes a discussion he had with the U.S. attorney general, Nicholas Katzenbach. The subject of the memo was possible linkages between King, Communism, and the antiwar movement. Hoover makes reference to Stanley Levison, a New York businessman who was prominent in leftist politics in the 1950s and 1960s. Levison, for example, had held a leadership position in the U.S. Communist Party...

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J. Edgar Hoover (Library of Congress)

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