Dear Mr. King

Over 50 years ago Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood on podiums to bless communities with hope, he sat on buses to communicate the value in colored lives and led peaceful marches to show our nation it was time for change. Throughout the civil rights movement this man’s voice, power and strength propelled the creation of a new world that united the vast populations of colored people as well as provided prospects of a bright future. These words were strong and created a movement. For the hands in power, MLK created everything they ever feared. With colored communities in an uproar for equal rights, on Nov. 18, 1964, MLK received an anonymous letter threatening him and requesting him to stop his civil rights work or the author would reveal the “sinful” double sided life he led.

Laced with hate, some lines from the letter read, “You are a colossal fraud and an evil, vicious one at that.” The word “evil” makes six appearances in the text, which writes about alleged lovers, carnal rage and personal betrayal. The writer describes MLK as having “filthy dirty evil companions” and “evil playmates,” all engaged in “dirt, filth, evil and moronic talk.” “What incredible evilness,” the letter proclaims, listing off “sexual orgies,” “adulterous acts” and “immoral conduct.” Near the end, it circles back to its initial target, denouncing him as an “evil, abnormal beast.” The uncovered passages contain explicit allegations about King’s sex life, rendered in the racially charged language of the Jim Crow era.


When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. received this letter he quietly informed friends that someone wanted to kill him— and he thought he knew who that someone was. The F.B.I.’s infamous director, J. Edgar Hoover, made no secret of his desire to see King discredited and Dr. King had no problem assuming the letter from him. A little more than a decade later, the Senate’s Church Committee on intelligence overreach confirmed King’s suspicion. When the letter was received by Dr. King it got very little coverage and most people didn’t even know it existed; now it occupies a unique place in the history of American intelligence, highlighting the Bureau’s capacity to do wrong.

This story brings light to the ongoing debate over how much the government should know about our private lives. Should intelligence agencies be able to sweep our email? Read our texts? Track our phone calls? and locate us by GPS? 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. Dr. King’s experiences remind us of the not-so-idle fears that some in power have of civil rights, and the lengths government leaders may go to, to try and ensure that civilians remain unresponsive.


Read more on the letter at

The facts are in our history. Lets continue to speak out on the Unspeakable!


-Monique Desir, Outreach Associate, Project Unspeakable

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