Martin Luther King Jr. left a lasting legacy in the fight for civil rights. But while his legacy is neatly presented 50 years after his assassination, King’s image was often vilified by most Americans while he was alive. The contradiction was glaring after a recent CBS News Poll found that 85% of Americans believe King made things better for Black people while 70% think his work is still relevant today.
In the midst of his fight for Black liberation, however, King wasn’t receiving much support. A 1966 Gallup poll by Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, obtained by Huff Post, provided some data to support the ill feelings some Americans felt toward King. For instance, only 36% of whites thought King was helping the “the Negro cause of civil rights.” Sixty percent viewed King more negatively than positively.
And despite graphic images of King and his supporters being bit by dogs, beaten by cops in what is now known as Bloody Sunday and numerous inspirational speeches later, after King was assassinated, 31% of Americans believed he “brought it on himself.” The man convicted of killing him received countless fan mail and letters of encouragement. One letter read, “King stirred up violence and caused many to lose their lives.”