New documents reveal how the FBI deployed a televangelist to discredit Martin Luther King

Lerone Martin, associate professor in religion and politics at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics.


In 2017, the National Archives released a new trove of FBI files in response to a Freedom of Information Act request I made. The security-screened documents reveal how the bureau solicited and received sacred assistance in their crusade to discredit Martin Luther King, Jr. during the civil rights movement.

The FBI’s efforts to destroy King’s reputation are well known, but less known is how the bureau colluded with Elder Lightfoot Solomon Michaux, then a widely successful black radio preacher and televangelist, in their campaign against King. Michaux coordinated with the FBI to protest King and to preach sermons that laundered the bureau’s counterintelligence against the civil rights icon.

As the nation marks 50 years since the untimely assassination of King, the revelation prompts a time of reflection for the televangelists that comprise President Trump’s evangelical advisory board specifically, and people of faith more broadly.

Read the full piece in the Religion and Politics blog.

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