The Medium is the Massage – Paper Trail

(Although I’ll never quite understand what happens in the comments sections of some of the articles I find fascinating,) I am amazed at the variety of documents referenced in Martin Dobrow’s article for The Atlantic, How the FBI Tried to Block Martin Luther King’s Commencement Speech:

  • The initial April 2, 1964, memo from F.J. Baumgardner to Head of Domestic Intelligence W.C. Sullivan was heavily redacted when it was declassified years later, but it still spelled out the plan quite clearly.
  • The name of the “established and reliable” source—the person who would be sent to intercede at Springfield College—is redacted in every instance except one. That momentary lapse by the person with the dark black marker fills in the critical puzzle piece…
  • A typed April 15 memo on onion-skin paper from Springfield College’s Director of Public Information George D. Wood Jr. addressed to Olds and cc’d to four other administrators…
  • The front-page headline of the Springfield student newspaper proclaimed: “World Famous Civil Rights Leader to Speak at June Commencement.”
  • And local leader Hoss Manucy, head of the Klan-affiliated Ancient City Hunting Club, told Harpers magazine, “My boys are here to fight niggers!”
  • Young told me this year at a civil rights summit in Austin that St. Augustine was unique in the civil rights movement in one respect: “It was the only place where our hospital bills were greater than our bond bills.”
  •  On May 28, the address of a cottage that had been rented for him was printed in the local paper; that night someone blasted it with gunfire, though King was not there.
  • (A photo of him pointing to a bullet hole in a sliding glass door has become the St. Augustine movement’s most enduring image.)
  • He also wired President Johnson to request federal protection, saying, “All semblance of law and order has broken down in St. Augustine.”
  • On June 29, Malcolm X—recently back from his pilgrimage to Mecca—sent a Western Union telegram to King in St. Augustine that read:

    We have been witnessing with great concern the vicious attacks of the white race against our poor defenseless people there in St. Augustine. If the federal government will not send troops to your aid, just say the word and we will immediately dispatch some of our brothers there to organize self defense units among our people and the Ku Klux Klan will then receive a taste of its own medicine. The day of turning the other cheek to those brute beasts is over.