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Sealed FBI audio tapes allege Martin Luther King Jr had affairs with 40 women and watched while a friend raped a woman, a report claims

Sealed FBI audio tapes allege Martin Luther King Jr had affairs with 40 women and watched while a friend raped a woman, a report claims

martin luther king jr mlk i have a dream march on washington civil rights

AP Photo/Jack Thornell

The Rev. Ralph Abernathy, right, and Bishop Julian Smith, left, flank Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during a civil rights march in Memphis, Tenn., March 28, 1968.

  • FBI documents from the 1960s hold evidence Martin Luther King Jr. had affairs with 40 women and stood by as a friend allegedly raped a woman, a new report claims.
  • An article by King biographer David Garrow to be released on Thursday in Standpoint magazine will detail the FBI memos, The Sunday Times of London reported.
  • Garrow claims the memos show how King engaged in orgies, solicited prostitutes, and "looked on and laughed" on as a pastor he knew raped a woman.
  • The memos were part of a huge US National Archives data-dump in early 2019.
  • The FBI was secretly recording King as part of a yearslong effort to discredit him. The tapes themselves remain under seal in the US National Archives. And Garrow's article was rejected by more prominent news outlets.
  • The King Center, which chronicles King's life, is yet to comment on the allegations.
  • This article contains details that some readers may find upsetting
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Documents describing secret FBI recordings allege Martin Luther King Jr. had affairs with 40 women and watched on as a pastor raped a women in the 1960s, a new report claims.

According to the Times of London, an article set to be published in the June edition of UK magazine, Standpoint, written by King biographer David Garrow details newly released FBI memos which discuss the tapes.

The tapes - sealed until 2027 in the US National Archives - hold recordings from bugs placed in hotel rooms King used in the 1960s when they suspected his aide, Stanley Levison, was a Communist.

The memos reportedly describe several unsettling tapes Garrow believes will tarnish King's legacy. Business Insider has contacted The King Center for comment on the report, but is yet to receive a response.

The tapes were made as part of an illegal FBI surveillance project that began in 1955 and continued until King was assassinated in 1968. The FBI was trying to gather negative information about King in hopes of using it to discredit him. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover was personally obsessed with bringing down King.

Given that context - and given Garrow's lack of access to the tapes themselves, in addition to the fact that the Standpoint article has yet to be published - Garrow's claims raise questions about the accuracy of the evidence and the motives of the FBI agents who created the documents. In a separate article describing the magazine's rationale for publishing the story, Standpoint's acting editor Michael Mosbacher says Garrow's work was previously rejected by The Guardian, The Atlantic and The Washington Post. A number of unnamed conservative magazine in the US also shied away. Mosbacher does not explain why they rejected it, although he implies they felt it was too controversial.

However, Garrow's 1986 biography of King won the Pulitzer Prize, so his new material will be difficult to ignore.

Garrow writes that the FBI bugged two lamps in King's room at the Willard Hotel, Washington, in January 1964, the Times said.

Dr. Martin Luther King  I Have a Dream


King giving his "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, DC.

According to the Times, a memo accompanying the tape describes how King "looked on and laughed" as a pastor of Baltimore's Cornerstone Baptist church allegedly raped a woman in the hotel room. The pastor died in 1991.

The FBI documents describe a conversation in which King "discussed which women among the parishioners would be suitable for natural and unnatural sex acts," the Times wrote, referring to Garrow's article.

"When one of the women protested that she did not approve, the Baptist minister immediately and forcibly raped her," the Times wrote, quoting the FBI documents.

Garrow notes the FBI agents did not intervene during the alleged rape.

MLK quote 05

Yutong Yuan/Business Insider

According to Garrow's article, which quotes the documents: "At the same hotel the following evening, King and a dozen other individuals "participated in a sex orgy"."

"When one of the women shied away from engaging in an unnatural act, King and several of the men discussed how she was to be taught and initiated in this respect. King told her that to perform such an act would 'help your soul'," the Times quoted from a memo.

King's alleged infidelity to his wife Coretta Scott King has been documented before, but never on the scale alleged by Garrow. He "always thought there were 10-12 other women," he told the Times. "Not 40-45."



King at a New York hotel on Nov. 6, 1964 as he announced plans by college students across the nation to raise funds to feed poverty-stricken African Americans in the deep south at Christmas time.

Garrow says the new information "poses so fundamental a challenge to his historical stature as to require the most complete and extensive historical review possible."

Garrow's article will contain several other allegations about King's conduct, the Times wrote.

Garrow writes that in 1964 William Sullivan, then-assistant director of the FBI, wrote a memo which paraphrased a recording of King.

In it, King reportedly jokes he's launched the "International Association for the Advancement of Pussy Eaters"."

One other FBI memo is said to describe a prostitute recounting an alleged sexual encounter she had with King and another woman in the Sands Hotel, Las Vegas, in April 1964.

Read more: The Martin Luther King Jr. historical site was set to be closed during the holiday due to the government shutdown, but Delta granted $83,500 to re-open it

According to the Times, the memo states King called a friend to "get your damned ass down here because I have a beautiful white broad here."

Martin Luther King Jr


King and the two women had sex, the FBI memo allegedly records the prostitute as saying, and when King's friend showed up King "watched the action from a close-by position" as they too had sex.

The memo quotes the prostitute saying she was "getting scared as they were pretty drunk and using filthy language," the Times said.

She told an FBI interviewer it was "the worst orgy I've ever gone through," the Times wrote.

King was the rallying point for the US civil rights movement from December 1955 until April 1968, when he was assassinated in Memphis, triggering riots in cities all across the US.


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