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The 'Truth' About Martin Luther King

Netlore Archive: Anonymous viral article purports to reveal "Four Things You Didn't Know About Martin Luther King, Jr."

Description: Forwarded email / Viral message
Circulating since: Jan. 2003
Status: Mixed (see details below)

Example:
Email text contributed by Rita F., Feb. 5, 2003:

Subject: MLK Day

Four Things you didn't know about 'Dr. Martin Luther' King:

1. His name wasn't Martin Luther. It was Michael. It was decided 'Martin Luther' had a more prominent ring to it, so he went by that. He never legally changed his name. To this day, he lived and died as Michael King.

2. While working on his dissertation for his doctoral degree at Boston University, he heavily plagiarized from another author who had done research on a subject similar to King's. An academic committee later found that over half of King's work was plagiarized, yet would not revoke his doctrine. King was dead by this time, and the committee ruled that revoking the title would serve no purpose. It was also discovered that King's famous "I Have A Dream" speech was also not his own. He stole it from a sermon by Archibald Carey, a popular black preacher in the 1950's.

3. King was under FBI surveillance for several years (until he died) due to his ties with communist organizations throughout the country. King accepted money from the organizations to fund his movements. In return, King had to appoint communist leaders to run certain districts of his SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), who then could project their communist ideas to larger audiences. A federal judge in the 60's ruled that the FBI files on King's links to communism to remain top-secret until 2027. Senator Jesse Helms appealed to the Supreme Court in 1983 to release the files, so the current bill in the Senate to create the Martin Luther King Federal Holiday could be abolished. He was denied.

4. One of King's closest friends, Rev. Ralph Abernathy, wrote a book in 1989 in which he talked about King's obsession with white prostitutes. King would often use church donations to have drunken sex parties, where he would hire two to three white prostitutes, occasionally beating them brutally. This has also been reported by the FBI agents who monitored King. King was married with four children.

Monday was "Martin Luther King" Day. A day when this country came to a screeching halt so we can have parades and memorials to honor this man, a man that most of the world views as a saint for his role in the civil rights movement.

No other public holiday in the United States honors a single individual. Of all the great leaders in our Nation's history - none of them have their own holiday. All of our great war heroes share Memorial Day. All of our great presidents share President's Day. Yet King - a man who was a phony, a cheater, a traitor, and a sexual degenerate - gets a day of his own.

I have a big problem with that.

I'm not trying to take anything away from African Americans, but I am trying to point out that (1) the vast majority of people are sorely mistaken about Michael King, and (2) that reverse discrimination is blatantly obvious everywhere you look today. Been watching the news lately? President Bush just got himself in some hot water when he spoke out against the University of Michigan for giving black applicants precedence over more qualified white applicants. Now Jesse Jackson, the NAACP, and other black leaders are trashing him, without a doubt planning how they can use this against his re-election campaign. Think about that - Bush just made a stand for equal human rights, but low and behold - in this case they don't want to be treated as equals. Make up your minds.

As a white heterosexual male, I feel like I belong to one of the more abused ethnic groups in this country today. Can I do anything about it? Absolutely not. If I dare speak out I'll get labeled a racist, harassed by the media, subsequently lose my job, and never be able to show my face in public again. But what I will do is send out this email to as many people I know in hopes that when you're watching the news Monday evening, and you see our politicians falling all over themselves to be filmed in a black church somewhere, you might stop and ask yourself - what about us?
Author unknown



Analysis: This anonymously-written diatribe (sometimes erroneously attributed to radio commentator Paul Harvey) contains a mixture of facts and lies, the specifics of which I will address below.

First, I must comment on the apparent aim of the text, which has circulated since January 2003 and versions of which appear on numerous websites, including some run by white supremacist groups. For all that it pretends to "set the record straight" on the life of civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was assassinated by a gunman in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968, it rests its case on a litany of tired misrepresentations while completely ignoring the man's extraordinary achievements on behalf of freedom and equality in America. It's an assassination attempt on his character.

To address the specific allegations:

Claim #1: His name wasn't Martin Luther. It was Michael.

Partly true. He was christened Michael King at birth on January 13, 1929, but when he was 5 years old his father, a Baptist minister, legally changed both his own name and his son's to Martin Luther King.

Claim #2: While working on his dissertation for his doctoral degree at Boston University, he heavily plagiarized from another author who had done research on a subject similar to King's.

True. While gathering and collating King's writings for publication in the late 1980s, the editors of Stanford University's Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project discovered "extensive plagiaries" in his academic papers, including his 1955 doctoral dissertation. All these instances of plagiarism had escaped detection during King's lifetime, even by his dissertation supervisors at Boston University.

Claim #2a: It was also discovered that King's famous 'I Have A Dream' speech was not his own.

Partly true. In both letter and spirit, the rousing conclusion of King's most famous speech borrows, without attribution, from one given eleven years earlier by family friend Archibald Carey at the 1952 Republican National Convention. However, the bulk of the "I Have a Dream" speech was King's own.

Claim #3: King was under FBI surveillance for several years (until he died) due to his ties with communist organizations throughout the country. King accepted money from the organizations to fund his movements.

False. While it's true that the FBI wiretapped Martin Luther King and other members of the SCLC during an ongoing investigation of alleged Communist ties, no evidence was ever found that King was a Communist sympathizer or that the SCLC received funding from Communist sources, according to King biographer David J. Garrow, who examined FBI documents released under FOIA.

Claim #4: One of King's closest friends, Rev. Ralph Abernathy, wrote a book in 1989 in which he talked about King's obsession with white prostitutes. King would often use church donations to have drunken sex parties, where he would hire two to three white prostitutes, occasionally beating them brutally.

False. Abernathy acknowledges in his autobiography that King had a "weakness for women" and indulged in extramarital affairs, but makes no mention whatsoever of "drunken sex parties" or prostitutes. He explicitly denies that King had dalliances with white women. Furthermore, Abernathy writes, far from being physically abusive, King was "always gracious and courteous to women."

A parting thought

"King was far from a saintly man," notes one biographer, and on this any objective observer must agree. However, the case for honoring King with a national holiday never rested on "sainthood" or anything of the kind, but rather on his tireless work and indisputable accomplishments as an advocate of equal rights for all Americans, for which he is rightly remembered and esteemed, and always should be.

Sources and further reading:

The FBI and Martin Luther King
by David J. Garrow, Atlantic Monthly, July/August 2002

Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project
Stanford University

Proclamation: Martin Luther King, Jr., Federal Holiday
White House press release, 14 January 1994

Martin Luther King, Jr.
by Peter J. Ling. Routledge: 2002.

And the Walls Came Tumbling Down
by Ralph David Abernathy. HarperCollins: 1991.

Last updated: 01/15/11

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