Other FBI files

A week before the 1963 March on Washington, the FBI's domestic intelligence division reported on the alleged infiltration of the civil rights movement by the Communist Party, USA. The report said communist agents had utterly failed to make inroads with any of the major civil rights organizations. "Despite every type of propaganda boomed at our Nation's Negro citizens, they have never succumbed to the party's saccharine promises of a Communist utopia," the report's cover memo said. Penned across the bottom of the memo was Hoover's response:

This memo reminds me vividly of those I received when Castro took over Cuba. You contended then that Castro and his cohorts were not Communists and not influenced by Communists. Time alone has proved you wrong. I for one cannot ignore the memos re King, O'Dell, Levison, [deleted], Hall et al as having only infinitesimal effect on the efforts to exploit the American Negro by the Communists.

In this August 30, 1963 memo, the head of the Domestic Intelligence Division, William Sullivan, does a bureaucratic back flip to appease Hoover. Sullivan later testified to congressional investigators that he and the men of his unit revised their findings to avoid being transferred or fired. "To be in trouble with Mr. Hoover was a serious matter," Sullivan said. In this memo, King is described as "the most dangerous Negro of the future in this Nation from the standpoint of communism."


Date : August 30, 1963

To : Mr. A. H. Belmont

From : Mr. W. C. Sullivan

IS - C

Reference is made to the enclosed material on which the Director has written: ""This memo reminds me vividly of those I received when Castro took over Cuba: You contended then that Castro and his cohorts were not Communists and not influenced by Communists. Time alone proved you wrong. I for one can't ignore the memos re King, [words redacted] et al as having only an infinitesimal effect on the efforts to exploit the American Negro by the Communists.""

The Director is correct. We were completely wrong about believing the evidence was not sufficient to determine some years ago that Fidel Castro was not a communist or under communist influence. On investigating and writing about communism and the American Negro, we had better remember this and profit by the lesson it should teach us.

I do think that much of the difficulty relating to the memorandum rightly questioned by the Director is to be found centered in the word ""influence."" We do not have, and no Government agency or private organization has, any yardstick which can accurately measure ""influence"" in this particular context, even when we know it does exist such as in the case of the obvious influence of [words redacted] over Martin Luther King and King's influence over other Negro leaders. Personally, I believe in the light of King's powerful demagogic speech yesterday he stands head and shoulders over all other Negro leaders put together when it comes to influencing great masses of Negroes. We must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this Nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro and national security.

On determining membership of Negroes in the Communist Party, we are not confronted with the same problem. We do have here accurate yardsticks for establishing membership. Of course, our standards are very exacting. This means there are many Negroes who are fellow-travellers, sympathizers or who aid the Party, knowingly or unknowingly, but do not qualify as members. These we must not ignore. The old communist principle still holds: ""Communism must be built with non-communist hands."" Therefore, it may be unrealistic to limit ourselves as we have been doing to legalistic proof or definitely conclusive evidence

On September 16, 1963, Internal Security Section chief Fred Baumgardner proposed a major expansion of the FBI's investigation and neutralization activities against King. Hoover rejected the initial proposal with these remarks penned at the bottom of the memo:

No. I can't understand how you can so agilely switch your thinking and evaluation. Just a few weeks ago you contended that the Communist influence in the racial movement was ineffective and infinitesimal. This - notwithstanding many memos of specific instances of infiltration. Now you want to load the Field down with more coverage in spite of your recent memo deprecating C.P. influence in racial movement. I don't intend to waste time and money until you can make up your minds what the situation really is.

Hoover would later approve the expansion. But his subordinates would have to work harder to get out of the director's doghouse.

This memorandum recommends increased coverage of communist influence on the Negro. The history of the Communist Party, USA(CPUSA), is replace with its attempts to exploit, influence and recruit the Negro. The March on Washington, 3-28-63, was a striking example of such communist acrivity as Party leaders early put into motion efforts to accrue gains for the CPUSA from the March. Well-documented information concerning the Party's influence on a principal March leader, Raverend Martin Luther King Jr.,is but an example. The presence at the March of around 200 Party members, ranging from several national functionaries headed by CPUSA General Secretary Gus Hall, to many rank-and-file members, is clear indication of the Party's favorite target ( the Negro) today.

All indications are that the March was not the ""end of the line"" and that the Party will step up its efforts to explit racial unrest and in every possible way claim credit for itself relating to any ""gains"" achieved by the Negro. A clear-cut indication of the Party's designs is revealed in its plans to hold a highly secretive the Negro situation. This meeting is to be preceded by a Gus Hall ""barnstorming"" trip through key areas of the country to meet Party people and thus better prepare himself for the November meeting.

The entire field is being alerted to this situation in a proposed SAC letter ( attached). The field is being instructed to intensify our coverage of communist influence on the Negro by giving fullest consideration to the use of all possible investigative tecniques. In addition, the field is [word redacted] to intensify its coverage of those communist fronts through which the Party channels its influence and to intensify its investigations of the many Party members [word redacted] who [word redacted] in activities on behalf on the Party in the Negro field.[sentence redacted].[sentence redacted]. Necessity for prompt handling of all [word redacted] of this latter to insure timely disscmination to the Department and [word redacted] interested [word redacted] is also being emphasized."

Memorandum to Mr. Sullivan

The proposed SAC Letter requires key security offices to submit to the Bureau, within 30 days, an analysis of their current coverage of communist activities in the Negro field plus details of their plans for intensification. Also, those 10 offices participating in the Counterintelligence Program on a regular basis are being required to include in their next monthly letters due 10-15-63 their plans to neutralize or disrupt Party activities in the Negro field.

If approved, attached SAC Letter go forward apprising the field as above and urging full implementation so that the desired results may be achieved. Also attached for approval are necessary Manual changes.

On September 25, 1967, Domestic Intelligence chief William Sullivan tries once more to mollify Hoover. Sullivan writes a memo to Hoover's assistant, Alan Belmont, and types the memo on plain paper instead of letterhead, hoping it need not become part of the official record.

To: Mr. A. H. Belmont

From: Mr. W. C. Sullivan



Reference is made to the enclosed memorandum dated 9/16/63 and to the attached proposed SAC Letter.

On returning from a few days leave I have been advised of the Director’s continued dissatisfaction with the manner in which we prepared a Brief on the above-captioned matter and subsequent memoranda on the same subject matter. This situation is very disturbing to those of us in the Domestic Intelligence Division responsible for this area of work, and we certainly want to do everything possible to correct our shortcomings. We absolutely will not be stubborn about admitting any mistakes we have made or be stiff-necked and unbending concerning our analysis of this matter. The Director indicated he would not approve our last SAC Letter until there was a clarification and a meeting of minds relative to the question of the extent of communist influence over Negroes and their leaders. In this memorandum I will seriously and sincerely try to clarify a most regrettable situation. It is prepared not on official office memorandum but rather on plain bond believing this discussion need not be made a matter of official record.

Common Agreement:
First, I am sure we are all in agreement on the following which was in both the cover memorandum and the detailed brief attached: (1) for the past 44 years the Communist Party, USA, has spent enormous sums of money and ceaseless efforts to influence Negroes and to make communists out of them; (2) the 19 million Negroes in the country today constitute the greatest single racial target of the Communist Party, USA; (3) Negro leader Martin Luther King, [sentence redacted] does have as an extremely important advisor [sentence redacted]; (4) we are right now in this nation engaged in a form of social revolution and the tie has never been so right for exploitation of the Negroes by communist propagandists; and (5) the Communist Party could in the future make prodigious strides and great successes with the American Negro to the serious detriment of our national security. In addition to the above, the material furnished contained many pages of specific examples of communist policies, programs, and activities.

Memorandum for Mr. Belmont

showing communist involvement in Negro racial matters in this nation, relative to which we can all agree.

Essence of the Situation:

The essence of the situation seems to be this: We presented what facts there are in our files in the Brief in question and I know that the Director certainly would not want us to do other than this. The position taken at the time the Brief was written was that, while there is communist influence being exerted on Negroes and Negro leaders, it has not reached the point of control or domination. This historically has been the position of the Bureau in this matter in light of file reviews going back ten to twenty years.

The Historical Position:

For example, in a detailed document prepared on Communist Party and the Negro in 1953, we find the statement referring to ""the failure of the Communist Party to attract even a significant number of Negroes in the United States to its number."" Another example is to be found in an analysis in this same field prepared by the Bureau in 1956 to the effect that communist efforts have been ""unsuccessful on a state or national level"" in infiltrating ""legitimate Negro-fraternal, protest and improvement organizations,"" although they made limited success in some ""isolated chapters."" The Director's book, Masters of Deceit, published in 1958, states: ""It became obvious the the Party, despite great efforts, had failed to win over even a significan minority of Negroes."" In 1960 the Director's statement to The Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, reads: ""It is no secret that one of the bitterest disappointments of communistic efforts in this Nation has been their failure to lure our Negro citizens into the Party."" In 1962 similar public statements were made. On page seven of the Brief submitted to the Director under the date of August 23, 1963, this historical position was restated and it was said, ""One of the bitterest disappointments of the communists has been their single failure to lure any significant number of our Negro citizens into the Party."" This statement was set forth in the cover memorandum which the Director marked.

The point I wish to make here is this: The fact that this has been our historical position in the Bureau for many years is no reason to assume that it is the correct position at this time, as the Director has clearly explained. Times and conditions change and, as the evidence mounts, naturally we need to change our position along with this evidence.

On October 10, 1964, U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy signs his approval to this memo (bottom left). It sets in motion the bugging of King's office and home telephone lines.

October 7, 1963

In Reply, Please Refer to

File No. 100-106670




[paragraph redacted]

It is further requested that authority be granted to place a technical surveillance on the SCLC office at the current New York address or to any other address to which it may be moved.

John Edgar Hoover

In the fall of 1964 the FBI produced a secret monograph describing the alleged influence of the Communist Party on King and the "Negro movement." An October version of the monograph was widely distributed among government intelligence offices. When Attorney General Kennedy objected to Hoover that the report was "very, very unfair" to King, Hoover had all the copies recalled. This November, 1964 revision of the monograph includes additional damning material about King's political and personal activities.

This October 17, 1963 memo between two of Hoover's top aids notes that the monograph on King, while top secret, might easily be leaked. The memo notes that Attorney General Robert Kennedy may resent its being circulated. Hoover pens this comment: "We must do our duty."


Mr. Tolson:

The attached analysis of Communism and the Negro Movement is highly explosive.It can be regarded as a personal attack on Martin Luther King. There is no doubt that it will have a heavy impact on the Attorney General and anyone else to whom we disseminate it. It is labeled TOP SECRET. However, even such a classification seems to be no bar today to a leak, and should this leak out it will add fuel to a matter which may already be in the cards as a political issue during the forthcoming Presidential campaign.

The memorandum makes good reading and is based on information from reliable sources. We may well be charged, however with expressing opinions and conclusions, particularly with reference to some of the statements about King.

This memorandum may startle the Attorney General, particularly in view of his past association with King, and the fact that we are disseminating this outside the Department. He may resent this. Nevertheless, the memorandum is a powerful warning against Communist influence in the Negro movement, and we will be carrying out our responsibility by disseminating it to the people indicated in the attached memorandum.


On December 7, 1963, the FBI's liaison to the White House, Cartha "Deke" DeLoach, reports on a conversation with Bill Moyers, an aide to Lyndon Johnson. According to DeLoach, the White House gives the nod for Hoover's FBI to circulate its monograph to King.

Date: December 7, 1964
To: Mr. Mohr
From: C.D. DeLoach
Subject: Martin Luther King / Dissemination of Monograph [possible handwritten note redacted]

Bill Moyers, Special Assistant to the President called me on Friday, 12/4/64, to indicate that he and the President had read the Director's letter in connection with possible dissemination of captioned monograph. He stated it was both his and the President's opinion that the FBI should disseminate this monograph if it was felt that dissemination would be in the best interest of internal security.

I told Moyers that under the circumstances he appeared to be telling me that we should go ahead and disseminate. He answered in the affirmative.


For record purposes.

1 - Mr. Belmont
1 - Mr. Sullivan
1 - Mr Jones

ADDENDUM 12/7/64 - Attached are appropriate letters, disseminating this monograph to appropriate government officials

On December 23, 1936, the FBI's Domestic Intelligence Division held a major planning session. The purpose, to "expose King for the clerical fraud and Marxist he is." This report memo, filed the next day, outlines some of the surveillance and smear tactics the FBI considered. A week later, Time magazine chose King as its "Man of the Year." Hoover scrawled a note on a memo about the honor: "They had to dig deep in the garbage to come up with this one."


In view of the influence the Communist Party, USA (CPUSA), is exerting on the racial situation, particularly through Martin Luther King, head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Director approved a conference be held between representatives of our Atlanta Office and Seat of Government personnel.

Recognizing the delicacy of this entire situation because of the prominence of King, the primary purpose of the conference was to explore how best to carry on our investigation to produce the desired results without embarrassment to the bureau. Included in our discussion was a complete analysis of the avenue of approach aimed at neutralizing King as an effective Negro leader and developing evidence concerning King's continued dependence on communists for guidance and direction.

The conference was held at the Seat of Government on 12-23-63. It was attended by Security Supervisor [name redacted] and SA [name redacted] from our Atlanta Office. The Seat of Government representatives were Assistant Director W.C. Sullivan, Inspector Joseph A. Sizoo, Section Chief F.J. Baumgardner, and Supervisors [name redacted] and [name redacted]. The conference lasted from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Assistant Director Sullivan briefed the conference on the task at hand. He pointed out the necessity for good judgment and discreetness in conducting any investigation concerning this matter. He made it clear it was necessary for us to continue obtaining evidence of the CPUSA's influence on King and, through King, influence on the Negro people. Mr. Sullivan also stressed the fact that, although King is a minister, we have already developed information concerning weaknesses in his character which are of such a nature as to make him unfit to serve as a minister of the gospel.

Mr. Sullivan pointed out that the field should continue to gather information concerning King [words redacted]"

Memorandum to Mr. Belmont

[sentence redacted] in order that we may consider using this information at an opportune time in a counterintelligence move to discredit him.

During the discussion which followed, the men from the field outlined in detail the operation of the SCLC in Atlanta and the manner in which it is managed by King.

Our discreet approach to this case has been necessitated by King's prominence and the delicate situation which surrounds the entire racial movement. A wrong move could well result in extreme embarrassment to the Bureau. As a result of the conference, it was decided we need to develop additional information in the following areas:

(1) We must determine and check out all of the employees of the SCLC.

(2) We must locate and monitor the funds of the SCLC.

(3) We must identify and check out the sources who contribute to the SCLC.

(4) We must continue to keep close watch on King's personal activities.

(5) We will, at the proper time when it can be done without embarrassment to the Bureau, expose King as an immoral opportunist who is not a sincere person but is exploiting the racial situation for personal gain.

(6) We will explore the possibility of utilizing additional specialized investigative techniques at the SCLC office.

Our technical coverage on King and the SCLC is producing excellent information. It was decided that, in view of this fact and since we could not engage in active investigation at this time without embarrassment to the Bureau, we would hold in abeyance open investigation as outlined above for another 90 days. During this time, we will utilize the information obtained from our technical coverage and conduct whatever investigation can be made discreetly.

Memorandum to Mr. Belmont

This conference proved to be most beneficial, and the men from the field expressed their appreciation for the opportunity of being brought in the Seat of Government for the purpose of exploring this entire matter. They were both enthusiastic about the case and stated the conference was of assistance in setting the future course of the investigation.


We will continue to give this case priority attention both at the Seat of Government and in the field and will expose King for the clerical fraud and Marxist he is at the first opportunity. At the end of the 90-day period, or conner if conditions permit, we will make a further recommendation as to whether we are in a position at that time to take further action against King and the SCLS without embarrassment to the Bureau.

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