MLK/FBI Review – Unpacking A Dark Season in American History

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MLK/FBI, from IFC Films, present an unfolding horror story as it unpacks the deeply hidden harassment and surveillance campaign initiated by the FBI to discredit and ultimately derail the leader of the civil rights movement.

The documentary begins with a black screen with the words, "By exposing the secrets of his private life. The FBI hoped to humiliate King and weaken his authority as a leader." It would become a dedicated pursuit.

After this Martin Luther King, Jr, is introduced at the March on Washington in 1963 as the moral leader of the nation. His words ignite the crowd. He quickly rises as the leader of the Civil Rights Movement.

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By 1963, the southern negros had already risen to a position of prominence as the non-violent protest in the 1955 Montgomery Bus strike had forced the local leaders to acknowledge them, albeit for their contribution to city revenue, and they were forced to desegregate public transportation. It was an historic victory for them and only furthered the deep seeded hated propagated by the status quo.

It was during this time, Martin Luther King, Jr., came to the attention of the J. Edgar Hoover, the Director of the FBI, who called him the "most dangerous negro in America." King could galvanize the people, build an integrated movement to challenge the suppression of the Negro across the south.

Hoover, who eventually ran the agency for fifty years, was convinced the civil rights movement was infiltrated by communists and feared King was a subversive bent on challenging the cherished system of segregation and the white rule.

To ruin King, he used every means at his disposal. William Sullivan, Hoover's right-hand man and head of the notorious COINTELPRO division of the FBI, once said in their pursuit of Dr. King, "no holds were barred."

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Listening devices were planted in Dr. King's hotel rooms, his phones tapped, informants paid. The Bureau enlisted journalists to write hostile stories about King and never alerted him to threats on his life. When King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, the FBI threatened to blackmail him unless he committed suicide.

Throughout the documentary, we are introduced to ideas and ideals of the times, and even the challenges to Hoover's own sexuality, which many historians explain as dedicated to his career, and always in the company of his male assistant director.

This targeting campaign included state of the art, for the 1960s, surveillance. And the files, which are shown first redacted then uncovered pulled choice phrases to reveal to the audience the issues which Hoover felt disqualified King as a moral leader.

The debate of moral, as in the moral treatment of a people, and morality, as in King's alleged extramarital relationships, never comes into the documentary, as it should. And the debate of Hoover's hardline compartmentalized rigid boundaries which allowed for no blurred lines should also be considered as part of the foundation for his dedication to the destruction of King, which it is touched on.

MLK/FBI couples two unfortunate seasons in history, the brutalities of the civil rights movement and the FBI suppression tactics. Throughout the film historians, guests, those who marched with King became leaders and even a former Director of the FBI, frequently provide insights into the tactics used by Hoover.

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The notorious audio sex tape, which was delivered to MLK's home, and opened by his wife, is addressed and the accompanying extortion letter dissected which offers insights into the author and the intent.

MLK/FBI is the first film to uncover the extent of the FBI's surveillance and harassment of MLK, and it provides a history of the FBI, as it was Hoover's FBI. Hoover created an FBI in his own image.

The G-Man, which was fictionalized by Hollywood, and the departments skilled public relations campaign which created the "good guy" ensuring the safety and security of American and conversely the presentation of the African American as the disruptor of those ideals.

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Based on newly discovered and declassified files, utilizing a trove of documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and unsealed by the National Archives, as well as revelatory restored footage.

Enlightening, informative and frightening. MLK/FBI presents a balanced documentary providing clear images of both Martin Luther King, Jr., and the FBI.

MLK/FBI resonates exposing the potential for corruption within the FBI and questions how many private citizens become the targets by rouge agents whose propensity to voyeurism drives them to the lawlessness side of the nation's highest law enforcement agency.

MLK/FBI is scheduled for released January 2021.


YEAR - 2020

RUNTIME - 104 minutes

LANGUAGE - English


DIRECTOR - Sam Pollard

SCREENWRITER - Benjamin Hedin, Laura Tomaselli

PRODUCER - Benjamin Hedin

CAST - James Comey, Beverly Gage, David J. Garrow, Clarence Jones, Charles Knox, Andrew Young


EDITOR - Laura Tomaselli

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