The FBI and I Have a Dream
16th September 2013 · 0 Comments
By A. Peter Bailey
According to reporter, Tony Capaccio, in the August 28, 2013 Washington Post, “The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech inspired the world. It also galvanized the FBI into undertaking one of its biggest surveillance operations in history.” A 1976 report of the Select Committee to Study Government Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities said that “The FBI’s program to destroy Dr. King as the leader of the Civil Rights Movement entailed efforts to discredit him with churches, universities and the press.”
While most commentary on the 1963 speech and most commentary at the recent 50th Anniversary celebration focused on the “I Have a Dream” section of the speech it is clear that the FBI paid close attention its other sections including Dr. King’s assertion that “In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our Republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir…It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note in so far as her citizens of color are concerned.
Instead of honoring this obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’ But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt… So we have come to cash this check—a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.”
J. Edgar Hoover and his FBI cronies were also alarmed when Dr. King insisted that “We have also come to this spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now (Italics his)….Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valleys of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the movement and to underestimate the determination of the Negro….Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwind of revolt will continue to shake the foundation of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.”
It would seem that at least one of the speakers at the anniversary celebration would have mentioned the FBI’s reaction to Dr. King’s speech. Instead they continued to swoon over “I Have a Dream.” If they are serious those who profess an ardent devotion to Dr. King’s legacy should be guided by the perceptive bluntness of the above and the practical, action-oriented, solutions-oriented, non-dreaming guidelines he presented in his last, must-read book Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? Otherwise they are just blowing smoke.
This article originally published in the September 16, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.