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Black History Month Special
Senator Jesse Helms’ Remarks on Martin Luther King Day,
Part Two


Sen. Jesse Helms on the cover of Time, September 14, 1981.

5,765 words

Part 1 here [2]

Editor’s note from the foreword by Beau Albrecht [3]: The following Jesse Helms speech was recorded in the Congressional Record, volume 129, number 130 (October 3, 1983 [4]): S13452-S13461. It’s available in hardcopy as a rare book, Martin Luther King Jr., Political Activities and Associations. For further context, hyperlinks and a captioned photo are added here.

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 following:

First, 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. [1] [5]

Second, 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. [2] [6]

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.

Third, 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.” [3] [7]

Fourth, 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. [4] [8]

Fifth, a letter on the stationery of SCEF apparently from Dombrowski to Dr. Lee Lorch [9], 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. [5] [10]

Sixth, 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 Southwide 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 was involved.

The Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker of SCEF has promised his cooperation, including the personal participation of the SCLC president, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. [6] [11]

Seventh, a letter, dated July 27, 1963, from Carl Braden to James Dombrowski, which states in part:

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 them. [7] [12]

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 first, 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 second, 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.


You can buy Greg Johnson’s Here’s the Thing here. [14]

King’s Activities on Behalf of Other Communist or Communist Front Groups

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 Un-American Activities and an authoritative spokesman on internal security matters, inserted in the Congressional Record extensive documentation of King’s activities in this regard: [8] [15]

First, 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 [16], a group identified as a Communist front organization by HCUA and SISS in 1956.

Second, 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. . . [9] [17]

Third, In May, 1962, King addressed the convention of the United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA). Stanley Levison wrote this speech. Charles Hayes [18] of Chicago of UPWA was a guest at the founding meeting of the SCLC in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1957 (with Ella J. Baker [19] 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 two 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.” [10] [20] 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. [11] [21] 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. [12] [22] 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-treasurer 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. [13] [23]

Fourth, Martin 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. [14] [24]

Fifth, 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 organization were identified as having been members of the CPUSA, including William Howard Melish. Carl Braden was also active in the Committee, as was Anne Braden. [15] [25]

Sixth, 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. [16] [26]


The Highlander Folk School, pictured here, didn’t exactly give lessons in square dancing, tartan weaving, haggis recipes, and bagpipe musicianship. Instead, this front group instructed in what’s now called “community organizing.” Rosa Parks was once a student too — surprise!

Seventh, Highlander Folk School [28]: 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 pro-Communists.

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 [29]; Aubrey Williams, identified as a member of the CPUSA and President of SCEF; and Myles Horton [30], 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. [17] [31]

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. [18] [32]

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. [19] [33]

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. [20] [34]

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. [21] [35]


You can buy It’s Okay to Be White: The Best of Greg Johnson here. [37]

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.” [22] [38] FBI surveillance of King showed that Levison “was urging King to speak out publicly against American military involvement in Vietnam. [23] [39]

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 [40], daughter of Communist Party theoretician and member of the National Committee of the CPUSA Herbert Aptheker [41], 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 Communist Party. [24] [42]

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. [25] [43] 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 [44]. Further, these two organizations have unified their efforts and are cooperating completely in their purpose of staging on April 15 [1967] 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. [26] [45]

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. [27] [46]

King portrayed U.S. troops in Vietnam as foreign conquerors and oppressors, and he specifically compared the United States to Nazi Germany:

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 Europe?

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 Vietnam:

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 betrayed again.

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. [28] [47]

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 Vietnam.

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 [48]. 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 scholarly criticism.

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 document.”

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.” [29] [49] 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.” [30] [50]

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.” [31] [51]

King was critical of capitalism in sermons of 1956 and 1957, and in 1967 he told the staff of the SCLC that —

“We must recognize that we can’t solve our problems now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power.” [32] [52]

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 faced. [33] [53]

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 [54] and the voting rights bill we moved into a new era, which must be an era of revolution. I 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. [34] [55]

In 1968 he publicly stated, “We are engaged in the class struggle.” [35] [56]

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.” [36] [57]


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.

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[1] [61] JLCUA, p. 86, Exhibit 37.

[2] [62] Ibid., p. 97, Exhibit 41.

[3] [63] Ibid., p. 100, Exhibit 43a.

[4] [64] Ibid., p. 101; Exhibits 44 and 44a; Ashbrook, Congressional Record, October 4, 1967, p. H13012.

[5] [65] 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.

[6] [66] JLCUA, p. 104, Exhibit 46.

[7] [67] Ibid., p. 106, Exhibits 47 and 47a.

[8] [68] Ashbrook, Congressional Record, October 4, 1967, pp. H13005- H13017 passim.

[9] [69] Report on the C.I.O. Political Action Committee, p. 183.

[10] [70] 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. 40.

[11] [71] 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.

[12] [72] HCUA, Annual Report, 1959, pp. 37-38.

[13] [73] Ibid., pp. 38-39.

[14] [74] Ashbrook, Congressional Record, October 4, 1967, p. H13010; JLCUA, p. 75, Exhibit 30.

[15] [75] Ashbrook, Congressional Record, October 4, 1967, pp. H13011 – H13013.

[16] [76] Ibid., pp. H13010-13011.

[17] [77] 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.

[18] [78] SISS, Southern Conference Educational Fund, Inc., Hearings, Testimony of Paul Crouch, p. 137.

[19] [79] Ibid., pp. 135-36.

[20] [80] Quoted, Ashbrook, Congressional Record, October 4, 1967, p. HI3011.

[21] [81] Ibid., p. H13012.

[22] [82] Garrow, FBI, pp. 137-38.

[23] [83] Ibid., p. 139.

[24] [84] HCUA, Communist Origins and Manipulation of Vietnam Week (April 8-15, 1967), Report, March 31, 1967, pp. 53 and 5.

[25] [85] Ibid., pp. 25-26, 53, 33-37.

[26] [86] Ibid., p. 53.

[27] [87] 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.

[28] [88] “Vietnam: We Lied to You,” The Economist (London), 26 February 1983, pp. 56-57.

[29] [89] 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.

[30] [90] Quoted in Garrow, FBI, p. 180.

[31] [91] Garrow, FBI, p. 304, p. 25.

[32] [92] Ibid., pp. 213-14.

[33] [93] Ibid., p. 214.

[34] [94] Ibid.

[35] [95] Ibid.

[36] [96] Ashbrook, Congressional Record, October 4, 1967, p. H13005.