The legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. remains strong as ever, but rumors about his private indiscretions once threatened to dismantle it. In 1964, a secret letter, eventually traced back to the FBI, was sent to King’s residence threatening to expose his infidelity if he didn’t leave the civil rights movement.
As King was out-of-town when it reached his home, the letter was first read by King’s wife, Coretta Scott King. The author used the term “evil” a handful of times to describe the civil rights leader while also calling him “immoral” and “a fraud.”
King’s extramarital affairs, discovered as the FBI sought to expose him as a Communist were used as a way to convince King to leave his work at the center of the movement. It even named the lovers King took, although his affairs were common knowledge to those around him. King and his colleagues banded together to respond to the letter, suspected then, and later confirmed, to be the handiwork of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
Hoover’s unhealthy obsession with King and other civil rights leaders would ultimately become his own undoing as his efforts to crush the civil rights and Black Power movements through measures both fair and foul were exposed.