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Shocking Find: Yale Prof Unearths Notorious Letter Hoover’s FBI Sent to MLK, Urging Him to Kill Himself

In 1964, as Martin Luther King was still rising in stature as leader of the remarkably successful Civil Rights Movement, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI agents sent King an astounding letter—which they hoped King would think was from an unidentified member of the public—urging the leader to kill himself or risk having his extramarital sexual wanderings released to the public.

While the existence of the letter has been known for some time, Yale history professor Beverly Gage stumbled upon an unredacted version of the letter while researching a book on Hoover. She writes about its shocking contents in today’s New York Times, calling the so-called “suicide letter” the “most notorious and embarrassing example of Hoover’s F.B.I. run amok.”

Filled with typos and misspellings, the letter affected the tone of what Gage called “a disappointed admirer,” supposedly a Black man, and told King he was a man of “hidious [sic] abnormalities.”

Hoover had become obsessed with King by 1964, particularly after the passage of the Civil Rights Act and King winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Hoover felt that King’s moral failings should disqualify him from leadership, and the FBI director tried to feed stories to the media of King’s sexual proclivities. But reporters, living in a very different age than ours, were not interested in King’s sex life, outraging Hoover.

So as described by Gage in her Times essay, one of Hoover’s deputies, William Sullivan, sat down and wrote the letter, then sent an agent to Miami to mail the package to King’s home in Atlanta.

“You are a colossal fraud and an evil, vicious one at that,” the letter said, going on to describe King’s alleged lovers as “filthy dirty evil companions” and “evil playmates,” engaged in “dirt, filth, evil and moronic talk.”

“What incredible evilness,” the letter proclaims, listing off “sexual orgies,” “adulterous acts” and “immoral conduct” and calling King an “evil, abnormal beast.”

The letter tells King to “lend your sexually psychotic ear to the enclosure” and says that he would be given 34 days “before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation.”

“There is only one thing left for you to do,” the author warns vaguely at the end of the letter. “You know what it is.”

King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, actually opened the package and gave it to her husband, who knew right away that it was the work of Hoover’s FBI, according to David Garrow’s award-winning King biography.

“Today it is almost impossible to imagine the press refusing a juicy story. To a scandal-hungry media, the bedroom practices of our public officials and moral leaders are usually fair game,” Gage writes. “And a sex scandal is often — though not always — a cheap one-way ticket out of public life. Faced with today’s political environment, perhaps King would have made different decisions in his personal affairs. Perhaps, though, he never would have had the chance to emerge as the public leader he ultimately became.

“Luckily, in 1964 the media were far more cautious. One oddity of Hoover’s campaign against King is that it mostly flopped, and the F.B.I. never succeeded in seriously damaging King’s public image,” she continues. “Half a century later, we look upon King as a model of moral courage and human dignity. Hoover, by contrast, has become almost universally reviled. In this context, perhaps the most surprising aspect of their story is not what the F.B.I. attempted, but what it failed to do.”

Gage says that the current F.B.I. director, James Comey, keeps a copy of the King wiretap request on his desk “as a reminder of the bureau’s capacity to do wrong.”

But she points out the King letter of 50 years ago comes back to us at a time when our intelligence agencies are busy collecting confidential information on Americans, under the guise of protecting national security.

“Much of the conversation swirls around the possibility that agencies like the N.S.A. or the F.B.I. will use such information not to serve national security but to carry out personal and political vendettas,” she concludes. “King’s experience reminds us that these are far from idle fears, conjured in the fevered minds of civil libertarians. They are based in the hard facts of history.”

What people are saying

22 thoughts on “Shocking Find: Yale Prof Unearths Notorious Letter Hoover’s FBI Sent to MLK, Urging Him to Kill Himself

  1. Jay Contreras says:

    The almost laughable irony of this story is: Hoover HIMSELF had skeletons in HIS own, deep, dark closet to hide: not only was he himself of apparently hated African descent but as we all know now– he was also being blackmailed by the mob with pictures that showed him in a homosexual act with his long time companion, Clyde Tolson. And isn't it ironic that the same sort of covert activity has been ramped up recently by these so called intel agencies (I don't believe it ever stopped.) Who are probably helmed by equally hypocritical drama queens guarding their own sick, perverted secrets. Yet they want to monitor everything we, those who pay their salaries, do. What a backwards society we live in & only b/c we allow it.

  2. So this brings into question who really killed Dr. king?Were they so mad that he didnt get him to kill himself they found a way to get it done anyway.

  3. Cora Talton says:

    child we all new about all our leaderswandering eyes , he wasnt the only one , but had nothing to do with what we were fighting for.and as always a man will be a man, as long as there woman who don't care if you are married are not, so grow up america, this is life.

  4. Wow… you are unbelievable. "A MAN WILL BE A MAN" Thanks for bringing up that horrible excuse and justifying his behaviors. He was married! Took a vow before God. Some of you people are so insanely stupid that looking at your comments makes my brain lose cells. So when a man rapes your daughter will you also say that a man will be a man because most mothers of boys give that same excuse dummy!!! And marriage is suppose to be sacred. The only thing that you said that was half accurate was the fact that information would have deterred us from looking at the bigger picture. But we also know that this great leader wanted to marry a white woman before marrying Coretta but was told he couldn't.

  5. Elle V Elle says:

    Ja'Lia Taylor don't believe everything you hear… as MLK had many prospects. However HE CHOSE the beautiful Coretta Scott King who stood by his side… a/k/a: character, loyal and commitment. MLK was no more interested in "white" women then Malcolm X. That's Malcom X, not Malcom Little, but El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz… you may not get that… but WE do. Not sure what politician in those days could point a finger. All corrupt to some degree. Next.

  6. Elle V Elle please do not insult my intelligence and assuming i stated something I heard. This is something I know. This is something that Martin Luther King parents stated before and its in a documentary. He actually wanted to marry that white woman.

  7. Elle V Elle says:

    Ja'Lia Taylor if your "intelligence" is insulted, it's probably because it should be… again, don't believe everything you hear… "white woman" [a non-factor], is least of what MLK "wanted"… it's WHAT HE DID! Now, what did he DO? Let's go with that, 'cause that would be what's relevant and what's fact to His name and to His legacy. You do like facts, don't you? J. Edgar Hoover "wanted" secret homosexual sex, your point would be?! J. Edgar Hoover hated MLK, plotted to have him killed and/or exposed. Again, irrelevant to the movement and unimportant to the article. *MLK, Civil rights record – impeccable.CarryOn.

  8. Fact is i never said Martin Luther King didn't do great things. I commented on the fact that this woman stated a man will be a man. And again its also a fact he DID want to marry a woman. And my comment was very relevant to what i was talking about. You however said dont believe everything you hear, inferring that what i said was not a fact. You can carry on to addressing someone who said that Martin Luther King didn't do great things.

  9. But I know a lot of you people get upset when someone says anything about your beloved Martin Luther King who also was a colorist. But hey that has nothing to do with the movement right? You women are whats wrong with our Society. Because out of all I wrote in my response you focused on what I said about him wanting to marry a white woman and nothing about the sexist mentality that people have with saying a man will be a man. Have a great day all of you. It's six and I have to teach these girl students of mine to be better than the generations before them who says to them men will just be men snd not hold their leaders accountable.

  10. America killed Dr. King

  11. Elle V Elle says:

    Ja'Lia Taylor no, "a lot of us people" don't get "upset", we just don't sit by and allow for ANYONE to taint the legacy of MLK or the MOVEMENT, with ignorant comments as you've tried to drop. When you do, expect to be checked. Also, actually it was YOU that went off the deep end with your "rape" reference [irrelevant and unnecessary,] and rant about ""justifying his behavior" and being accountable. FYI: MLK's wife name was Coretta Scott King. She is the ONLY one [and his family], that he needed to be accountable to for any indiscretions and infidelities within THEIR marriage [before GOD]. Apparently, she forgave him and decided to remain in the marriage. The public forgave him also, rather choosing to focus on the power and purpose of the MOVEMENT. 50 years later, the FBI wants the public to know by opening up MLK's sealed FBI files, and the media is circling like the vultures that they are. Information of what we already know about our great leaders and politicians… that they're not perfect. MLK nor J. Edgar Hoover were perfect. And, what's shocking or new about that?

  12. Elle V Elle says:

    … Also, there was an initial FBI conspiracy by J. Edgar Hoover [as mentioned in the article], to expose MLK, offering the option/sugestion to kill himself. Where's the outcry against the FBI's "accountability" for extortion, abuse of power, and illegal wire tapping. YOU also tried to drop the "wanted to marry a white woman before marrying CSK" dumbness, to try to smear, undermine and demean his great leadership and character., with a "wow, aha" moment. As if, the very powerful, very handsome, very successful, well educated, brilliant, very handsome MLK. who had much promise and destiny wasn't "want" for the "white woman" The only thing you got right was "this great leader"… B/T/W, women like me, I'm a mentor, and a HAPPILY married woman. You may also want to check your "man hate". *JustSaying. I'm done with this. Next.

  13. MzAmber Livinglife Johnson says:

    Malik Henderson I beleive the FBI is who killed him….
    Check out these links from the King Center.

  14. Wale Reze says:

    Ja'Lia Taylor Why call someone whose view you don't agree with stupid?? Isn't your rape analogy actually stupid too?? The fact he wanted to marry a white woman initially also doesn't concern you….. You are actually the stupid one here ma'am!!

  15. Don't know where you've been but there has never been any doubt as to who killed Dr.King. He knew when he left the White House he was going to be a martyr. This is why he preached his funeral. " tell them not to mention my Nobel peace prize, that's not important." " tell the I was a drum major for justice" " I may not get there with you". Oh he knew and those listening did too. I remember telling/asking my mom why was he preaching his funeral? Jarrelle Harris is right. America killed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And the world hasn't been the same since his death!

  16. truth be told neither one of these men can clam the moral high ground Hoover was slime but like white America Black America have a very selective memory when it comes to that time and the role these men played. Martin was no saint he was paid to redirect the March on Washington and it is true about his sexual affairs and yes Hoover was the devil who wore woman's underwear under his suit the black man who killed his uncle to keep his secret. just like then today we are glorifying and following degenerate human beings and calling them Heroes. Paid Bola, and Skull and Bones operatives who have hijacked the American dream or in our case The Amerikkkn Nightmare.

  17. Keema McCoy says:

    As much a J. Edgar Hoover hated MLK I'm not incline to believe anything he says unless there's definitive evidence to prove MLK was a cheater. I'm not going to listen or believe the biggest homosexual that ever existed.

  18. Hoover was a peeping tom as a kid.He was a closet pervert with a large collection of porn.

  19. The Black-Male against a Black-Male is due to, Dr Kings' extra marital affairs on tape, in hotels , through out America, taped by J.EDGAR HOOVER ( A bLACK mAN ALSO). Dr Kings' mentor was a pedophile named BAYARD RUSTIN (SEE PASADENA; LA PD, LA CHRONICLE 1953) who King met in 1951. BAyard Rustin was Phillip Randolphs protege", one of the original founders of the NAACP, who deported Marcus Garvey.


  21. Johhen Allen says:

    In 1999 the government, after a trial, was found to have participated in the murder of Dr. King. Video of the trial is online.

  22. Jarrelle Harris Spelled ameriKKKa wrong.

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