Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most impactful Americans to have ever lived. His legacy has been a critical part of the American story and he is someone who has helped shape the country we live in today.
However, at the time of his assassination the nation that now looks back on his legacy with a seemingly insatiable level of respect didn’t think of Dr. King so fondly. In fact, he was seen by many as a threat.
When Dr. King was assassinated 55 years ago; he was not on the list of the most admired Americans — he was on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) list of threats to the United States government.
Following the successes of the Civil Rights movement in the early 1960’s, Dr. King was seeking to expand the movement to include the economically exploited of all reaches and religions, both in the U.S. and abroad. Dr. King was advocating for several ideas that he intertwined with his economic agenda for America, such as a Bill of Rights for the Disadvantaged and a Guaranteed National Income — or what is more commonly known today as Universal Basic Income.
The agenda that Dr. King was advancing placed him in direct opposition to the corporate-friendly American ruling class. As a result, King was subject to blackmail and death threats that have since been traced back to the FBI’s COINTELPRO program.
COINTELPRO — otherwise known as the Counter Intelligence Program — was a series of covert and illegal projects conducted by the FBI that attempted to infiltrate and discredit domestic American political organizations.
Records show that the program targeted groups affiliated with the civil rights movement, as well as feminism, communism, and anti-war activists. The American Indian Movement was also surveilled as part of COINTELPRO. As part of COINTELPRO, the FBI sent an anonymous letter to Dr. King which allegedly encouraged King to commit suicide.
Today, individuals from all across the political spectrum will look back on the legacy of Dr. King fondly without acknowledging what he actually stood for. If they acknowledged the reality of Dr. Kings revolutionary ideology, they would not be able to continue whitewashing his legacy today by turning him into a passive figure who is only remembered for peace and unity rather than his passionate stances against racisms, militarism, capitalism and imperialism.