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The Feds vs. the Activists | MLK | 2

The Feds vs. the Activists | MLK | 2

Tue, 27 Oct 2020 09:00

The FBI goes after Martin Luther King, Jr., after the civil rights leader calls for an end to racial injustice. The bureau begins to spy on King—and forces him to make an impossible decision.

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It's January 1962, Martin Luther King, Jr., striding through the halls of the U.S. Department of Justice. He runs a hand over his dark, neatly trimmed hair. A grin says he exchanges a glance with one of his associates. Today was yet another step forward for the Civil Rights Movement. Just a few minutes ago, King left a meeting with Robert F. Kennedy himself. Kennedy is not only the younger brother of the President, he's also the Attorney General of the United States, and he's shaping up to be a significant ally for the Civil Rights Movement. In the meeting, King sat down with Kennedy and other civil rights activists, and the group discussed a pressing issue, the disenfranchisement of black voters in the South. Kennedy pledged to support the work of organizations like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which King has run for the past five years. In Kennedy said he'd do everything in his power to support registration efforts for black voters. Now as King walks through the halls of the Department of Justice, he can't help but feel a new trickle of hope. He looks around at other black organizers who walk with him, who fight with him day in and day out. King knows he can't necessarily trust a politician like Kennedy, who's white, ambitious, and wealthy. Still, he'll take the wins when he can, no matter how small they may seem. King reaches the front doors of the building and straightens his coat. Outside, a cold drizzle has begun to fall from the winter sky. King lays a hat on his head and steps out into the rain. But before he gets far, a white man in a suit sets a hand on his shoulder. It's John Seagunthaler, one of Kennedy's mates. Martin, before you go, in a word and private. Is this something the rest of the group can't hear? Just something I wanted to run by you? Come on, let's take a quick walk. King exchanges a knowing glance with his associates. He doesn't like the sound of this, but he's not too worried. Seagunthaler is a government official, but one he actually trusts. Just last spring, he joined the Freedom Rider bus protests in Alabama. He's proven to be a committed advocate for civil rights. But as the two walk through downtown DC, King can see there's something wrong. Seagunthaler's eyes are darting left and right. Now, I don't want to take up too much your time, Martin, but there's something Bobby wants you to know. This is off the record. Look, you have plenty of friends in the DOJ, but not everyone wants you to succeed. The FBI, they're watching you closely. They're getting suspicious. Suspicious of what? Your loyalties. King pauses and grits his teeth. He knows exactly what this means. And Adermacarthi's witch hunts may be over, but the cold war is alive and well in America. King shakes his head. I'm not a communist, John. I know that, but the FBI is spreading information. They told Bobby that several people in your inner circle have communist backgrounds. Is it true? Whether that's true or not is none of your business. It is my business if I'm trying to help you. John, when someone offers to fight with me, I take them at face value. I don't interrogate my friends about the past. Maybe it's time to start. If Hoover finds a direct link between you and the communists, you're finished. The Kennedys will have no choice but to cut all ties with you. John, who runs this country? I ask because last I check your boss and his brother, college shots, not Hoover. Seagunthalor stops and gazes back at the limestone building, housing the Department of Justice. Nobody tells Jay Egrhuber to back off, not even the president of the United States. If Hoover wants to find something he will not stop. So I'm begging you, be careful. Well, thank you for the information. The two shake hands and Seagunthalor then turns and heads back inside. For a moment, King stands in the cold, feeling the drizzle blowing across his face. He squintes eyes. Thanks about his next steps. This was no small warning. If it's true that the FBI opposes him, and he and his cause are in real danger. But powerful enemies are nothing new to King. They come with the territory when you fight for change. So King will not back down, not when his movement is growing stronger every day. He knows that he has to keep fighting on behalf of every black person in America. No matter what happens or who he's up against, even if it's Jay Egrhuber himself. American scandal is sponsored by the new ABC drama Alaska Daily when an indigenous woman goes missing in Alaska. It sparks new questions about other missing and murdered indigenous women. And that's where the thrilling new ABC drama Alaska Daily begins and where it's headed will have you on the edge of your seat. Two time Academy Award winner Hillary Swank stars as I lean a veteran reporter who joins a team of local journalists working to bring the truth to light from Academy award winning screenwriter Tom McCarthy Alaska Daily premieres Thursday October 6th on ABC and streams next day on Hulu. If you're into true crime, the generation why podcast is essential listening. We started this podcast over 10 years ago to dissect some of the craziest and most notable murders, times and conspiracy theories together and we'd love for you to join us. Follow the generation why podcast on Amazon music or wherever you listen to podcasts. From Wondry I'm Lindsey Graham and this is American Scan. In our last episode we looked at a covert operation by federal law enforcement which aimed to silence Billy Holiday. The famous jazz musician sang about racial injustice and when she was unwilling to stay quiet, federal officials began to target her with drug charges. Yet holiday wasn't the only activist who faced this kind of harassment. In the mid 1950s Martin Luther King Jr. emerged as a leading spokesman for racial justice. King was a Baptist minister and advocated nonviolent resistance. He earned national fame in 1955 when he joined the Montgomery bus boycott which was sparked by Rosa Parks. In 1957 he appeared on the cover of Time magazine. That year he also delivered his first national address and spoke up about voting rights for black Americans. Soon though King found himself confronting numerous enemies. One would prove to be incredibly dangerous. Jay Edgar Hoover the director of the FBI. Officially the FBI's mission was to protect the United States from criminals. But in practice Hoover used the agency for his own purposes. Hoover was power hungry and willing to disregard constitutional limits on his own authority. And as the leader of the FBI he tasked his agents to go to war with his enemies. Hoover was especially opposed to non whites and to those he suspected were communists. And so when Martin Luther King Jr. rose to power Hoover gave his agents an extraordinary task. King's reputation as well as his psyche. This is episode two MLK. It's June 1963, a sweltering Saturday afternoon in Atlanta. Right now Martin Luther King Jr. sits at his kitchen table sweating. Nearby a fan blows hot air on his face and stirs a pile of paper the clutter says table. King stares at the no pad in front of him. He taps the table with a dull pencil. And he sighs. All day King has been working on his sermon and he still hasn't gotten it exactly right. He has to give the sermon tomorrow at Ebenezer Baptist Church. It's there that he serves as co pastor alongside his father. King is a busy man and outside the church he also serves as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference or SCLC. He is also working on a book manuscript and planning several demonstrations. He finds the work spiritually invigorating and yet sometimes it feels like too much for one man to handle. King lifts the bottom of his shirt and wipes the sweat from his brow. As he pauses he hears the sound of children laughing. He looks out into the living room. His wife Coretta is chasing his four children and they giggle hysterically. King persists his lips and looks back at his no pad. He needs to focus and finish the sermon. He shakes his head. It's been too long since he's had the time and energy to spend an afternoon just playing with his kids. King has made a lot of sacrifices for his cause but losing time with his family that's the only sacrifice he really regrets. So the sooner he finishes this sermon the sooner he can set aside the no pad and start chasing the kids around the living room himself. King starts to write down some thoughts when the kitchen phone rings. King drops his pencil and walks over the phone, picks it up. On the other end of the line is Stanley Levison. Levison is a Jewish attorney and one of King's greatest allies. For the last six years Levison has been King's go to expert for tough questions about finance or the law. Levison is a fast talking New Yorker and barely says hi before launching into the good news. He knows King has needed some help in Atlanta. He's found the perfect person. The man's name is Jack Odell and he's been working closely with Levison in the New York office of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Odell is a professional activist and a talented fundraiser. He'll work the phones tirelessly to generate money for the organization. King pauses as he watches his wife Kareta tickling their youngest child. Then he tells Levison that he'd like to speak with Odell as soon as possible. He could use some assistance right away and this man sounds perfect. Before a moment Levison goes quiet and then carefully Levison says that while Odell would be a great help, he's not exactly perfect. He happens to be a former communist. King feels a small jolt of anxiety. This is exactly what he was warned about back in January when he spoke with Bobby Kennedy's aide. King remains quiet thinking. Then then Levison jumps in again and says that Odell has put all that behind him. But Levison admits his past could be a liability if the wrong people find out. King feels the worry knowing at him. The FBI could learn about Odell and they could wield him like a weapon. Still, King hears another voiceless head reminding him about that conversation back in January. King said that he takes people at face value. That was true then and it's true now. So King makes up his mind and tells Levison that he'd like to speak with Odell. Levison says he won't regret it and the two hang up. King sits back down at the table and returns to his sermon. In the coming months, he'll have countless speeches to write and even more sermons to give. He has to plan demonstrations. Marches he'll be exhausted and his organization will be financially drained. King knows that he can't lead a movement all by himself. And while Odell's past is not ideal, King needs the help. Two months later, William Sullivan sits behind a Mahogany desk and listens carefully to a tape recorder. Sullivan is the assistant director of the FBI and right now he's playing back a speech that everyone is talking about. He was delivered just two days ago at the Lincoln Memorial. And Sullivan knows that if he doesn't act fast, this speech could cause a nightmare to unfold across the country. Sullivan loosens his tie and takes several deep breaths as he listens to the deep resonant voice on the tape. Sullivan leans back and runs a hand through his hair. His boss, J. Edgar Hoover, warned him about this Martin Luther King Jr. He said the king's rhetoric, his dream, could destroy the country and that he was likely a secret communist. It's not that Sullivan downplayed the warning. He just thought he had more time to bring down the civil rights leader. Now Sullivan realizes that he's waited too long. King isn't just some southern pastor fighting bus laws in Alabama. Following his march on Washington earlier this week, it's become clear that King is a powerful leader. Sullivan believes he's aiming to unravel the very fabric of America. That's why Sullivan joined the FBI so that he could protect his country from threats like King, a man who predicts unrest until racial minorities are treated equally. That's not the country Sullivan wants to live in, where a black man might attempt to seize power. Sullivan shuts off the tape player furious. He's heard enough. It's time to take action. So he turns to his tie prior, loads a sheet of paper and begins a memo. His fingers fly over the keys. He urges the FBI to take King seriously. He thinks of the perfect phrase, typing it out, calling King, the most dangerous Negro of the future in this nation. Sullivan adds a final flourish, saying that, when determining whether black Americans are communist, the FBI can't limit itself to legalistic proof or conclusive evidence. Sullivan cracks his knuckles, yanks the memo from the tie prior. He hopes it'll move the bureau to take swift action. To make sure it doesn't get ignored, he decides he'll deliver it himself to J. Edgar Hoover's office. Sullivan asserts that Hoover will approve the message and a shift in strategy. The FBI director has had communists and black radicals in his sight for years. Now, after hearing King's speech, Sullivan fully agrees with his boss. He has no doubt about the biggest threats this country faces, and he has no doubt about what needs to happen now. The FBI must pursue a relentless investigation of Martin Luther King. It's October 10, 1963 in Washington, DC. Inside his office, Attorney General Robert Kennedy leans back in his leather desk chair. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. Right now, he wants one thing and one thing alone, and that's to cancel the meeting that's about to take place. But he knows he has no choice. Kennedy sighs and runs a hand through sandy colored hair. This meeting is a grim necessity. He has to take action, even if he doesn't like what he's about to do. It's the nature of politics. The door swings open and a beefy man and a suit enters. His name is Courtney Evans, and he's a liaison to the FBI. He stands with a manila envelope tucked under his arm and a look of cold determination in his eyes. Kennedy points to another leather chair. Have a seat, Evans. Thank you, sir. Look, I'll get right to the point. I've read through the materials you sent me. The materials about Martin Luther King. Yes, about Dr. King. Kennedy hesitates because he knows what he says next could change the course of American history. He wants to do the right thing. He wants to stand on the side of justice, and yet he also knows his hands are tied. So he looks back at Evans and furrows his brows. I must confess the findings about Dr. King do concern me. They concern us as well, sir. That's why we sent them to you directly. If I may say so, I'm glad you're starting to see King for what he truly is. A menace. It's an enemy to the American people. I'm not ready to call him a menace. Do you understand? Of course, sir. I apologize. I like King. I do. But I am disappointed. I told him to stay away from Communists, and now he brings in this character, this Jack O'Dell. What the hell was he thinking? You know, I'm still not sure if it makes King a subversive himself, but Kennedy pauses and looks down at his hands. But we can't take any risks. We have to be sure. Evans straightens his back and fixes Kennedy with a determined look, understood, sir. If you need proof, that's what I'll get. Yeah, and how will you do that exactly? Well, we'll start with wiretaps. We'll install one on the phone at the office where O'Dell works, and then we'll install another on King's home phone line. We'll listen to their conversations, and we'll learn the truth. Why are tapping O'Dell's office, I understand, but do you really need to bug King's home? Absolutely, sir. It'd be a huge mistake if we didn't. Here, this is for you. Evans opens the Manila envelope at his side. He pulls out a sheet of paper and slides it across the desk. Kennedy reads and swallows hard. This is the official authorization to install wiretaps in the SCLC office and King's residence. Kennedy exhales deeply his expression paint. He doesn't want to set in motion something that could destroy King and his movement. He also can't afford any surprises, not when his job and his brother's presidency are at stake. So with a heavy heart, Kennedy picks up a pen. His hand hovers over the signature line at the bottom. He looks up and sees Evans watching intently. Don't hesitate, sir. Do what's right. Evans, I trust that you and your fellow agents recognize the delicacy of this operation. King is a friend. I don't take the idea of spying on him lightly. Sir of King is a communist and he's no friend of yours. Kennedy nods and then signs the surveillance authorization shoving it towards Evans. Audio surveillance of King may proceed on a trial basis. You're making the right decision, sir. Absolutely. With that, Evans stands and leaves the room. Kennedy leans back in his chair alone in his office. Suddenly his heart starts racing. He feels panicky and for a second he wonders if he should chase down Evans and tear up that sheet of paper. Kennedy tries to steady himself by looking at the window. Orange and brown leaves fall from the branches and flutter to the ground. The seasons are changing in DC and Kennedy knows that the world is changing around him too. He can only hope that when all the history books are written, his decision today will seem like the right one. But Kennedy feels a lump in his throat as he considers another possibility. King could be innocent. Kennedy could have just betrayed one of the greatest leaders in American history. And even if he does have communist ties, Kennedy has just thrown him to J. Edgar Hoover and his pack of wolves. Black America may soon lose its greatest champion. Kennedy shakes his head. Because all he can do now is wait and pray and hope that he hasn't just doomed Martin Luther King and that he hasn't destroyed the country's movement for black civil rights. What if your family was the victim of a home invasion? Or you woke up in the morgue? Or you were seriously injured miles from help? What would you do? This is actually happening. Our listeners, this is a very question. While we bring you captivating real life stories of trauma and perseverance. This is actually happening. Brings listeners extraordinary true stories from the people who lived them. You'll hear stories about conflict, turmoil, or threats that dramatically alter the course of someone's life. Each episode is an exploration of the human spirit and how survivors manage to overcome hardship and move on with their lives, even thriving afterward. The new season of this is actually happening is available ad free only with Wondry Plus. And if this new season isn't enough, you can listen to more than 120 exclusive episodes available only to Wondry Plus subscribers. Join Wondry Plus on Apple Podcasts or on the Wondry app. It's early January 1964. William Sullivan stands outside a heavy wooden door and composes himself. And just a minute he'll come face to face with his boss, FBI director J. Eger Hoover. And when they meet Sullivan, we'll have to deliver some bad news. It's been months since his men started spying on Martin Luther King Jr. But in all that time, and with hours of manpower spent on the case, they still haven't dug up proof that King is a communist. And that means Sullivan has failed in his task. Sullivan shakes his head and thinks about the incredible events over the last few months. It's not only that he has the task of rooting out a powerful subversive like King, but just six weeks ago, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Sullivan knows that right now America needs the FBI more than ever. The country needs law and order. And Sullivan believes citizens need to be protected from activists like King, radicals, who declare that black and white men are equal. Yet Sullivan can't help a few weeks in the days. He knows he's failed his boss. Sullivan is the assistant director of the FBI, and Hoover has trusted him to work on top secret programs. But with little progress to show on Martin Luther King, Sullivan can only hope that Hoover will forgive his failures. Sullivan checks his watch. It's 10am on the dot. He takes a deep breath, knocks on the door. Sullivan steps in. He finds Hoover perch behind his massive desk and holding a thick ream of documents. His glasses rest on the edge of his nose as he reads intently. Sullivan watches his boss and feels a wave of admiration. Hoover may be nearly 70, but he still is sharp and focuses ever. Hoover suddenly looks up and drops a stack of papers on his desk. I was just rereading this transcript here, a recording of King and his friends on December 27th. Yes, sir. And before you say anything else, let me just apologize. I accept full responsibility. Hoover cocks his head to the side with a confused look on his face. You accept full responsibility for what? For my failure to secure proof that King is a communist. We've been working around the clock, sir. I hope you allow me just a little more time. We will get King eventually out promise and I'll make this up to you. What in God's name are you battling about Sullivan? Get him. We got him. It's right here. Hoover pounds his hand on the stack of documents, resting on the table. Sullivan is still confused and squinted, Hoover. Sir, we do. It's all on the tape. Did you even listen? That immoral slime was drinking, smoking. He was carrying on with loose women. Oh, those degenerates. They really had themselves quite a time, didn't they? In King's wife, she's back home in Atlanta. This transcript makes it clear that King is a philanderer. We do know that word, don't you Sullivan? Yes, of course, sir. Well, then you should understand that we have him. That false prophet. This is how we'll destroy him. Forgive me, sir, but I'm not quite sure I've fallen. We have some dirt for sure, but we need to prove that he's a communist so we can prosecute him because other stupid Sullivan, or you're just pretending to be. I hope for your sake, it's a ladder. This isn't about building a legal case. I've never been about the law. What we need to do is get rid of King anyway we can. He's calling for equal pay for blacks, equal social standing for blacks, equal equal black, black, equal. Soon he'll say it's okay for black men to have white women. You think that's okay, Sullivan? For our kind of mix with theirs? No, sir, absolutely not. Well, good. Then you agree we have to take him down, communist or not. Sullivan nods his head and suddenly feels light on his feet. For days now he's been dreading this meeting. He was certain he'd failed that he'd lose his job. He thought he'd have to beg and plead to keep it, but now he feels steady and strong. His work will continue to move forward and he'll continue to make sure that America is safe from dangerous radicals. He nods his head and grins at Hoover. Yes, yes, sir, I agree. We need to take him down, communist or not. In that case, give me ten more recordings just like this one. We need more audio of King fooling around on his wife. And once the evidence is overwhelming, we go public. He calls himself a preacher. Has the gall to lecture whites on how they ought to live. Who fix him once and for all? I'll get the tape, sir. And we'll make him pay dearly for what he's done. I promise you. Hoover leans back, visibly impressed. Maybe you're not so stupid after all, Sullivan. I'll get back to work. Yes, sir. Sullivan rises and heads back to his office. Before he realizes it, he's jogging, hurrying as fast as he can to get back to work. He's racing through the hallways and he can't help but smile. Martin Luther King Jr. has no idea what's coming for. But he'll learn soon enough. Ten months later, Martin Luther King Jr. sits alone on his bed in Atlanta. He stares at the rotary phone on his nightstand and prepares himself to make a call. It could be one of the most important conversations he'll ever have. Could change the course of the civil rights movement and maybe even save his own life. Or if his worst fears come true, what he says could be used to destroy him. At 35 years old, King's achieved more than he'd ever dared to hope for. This past July, the Civil Rights Act was finally passed. He prohibits discrimination on the base of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. And then last month, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Despite these unimaginable milestones, tonight King feels a cold shadow stretching over him. Yesterday, Jay Egger Hoover told reporters that King was the most notorious liar in America, who ever said that he was one of the lowest characters in the country. King doesn't know exactly what Hoover's planning, but one thing is clear. King has made a powerful enemy, an enemy who can destroy anyone he opposes. That's why King knows he has to take action today. He grabs the phone and dials. After a few rings, CT Vivian picks up. Vivian is one of King's top aides, and although King is feeling anxious, he can't help but smile. Vivian is smart, fearless, well respected. He's just the kind of man King needs in a crisis like this. King doesn't waste any time. He asks Vivian for a favor. Something that for political reasons, he can't do himself. Vivian asks King what he needs. King takes a deep breath and pauses. He knows his phone line may be tapped. The FBI could be listening in. Still there's no turning back now. He has to go forward with his plan. And so King asks Vivian to reach out to the White House. He wants Vivian to make a request in the most diplomatic way possible. President Johnson should consider publicly rebuking Jay Eger Hoover, or replacing him entirely. There's a long silence. Vivian then speaks, reminding King that going against the FBI is an extremely dangerous proposition. As King's certain, he wants to wage that war. King knows Vivian is right. This could be political or actual suicide. But he steals himself and tells Vivian that Hoover has left him little choice. The FBI director opposes equality in America. If Hoover's power goes unchecked, there's no telling what he'll do next. King believes their entire movement may be at stake. Vivian's response is immediate. He says he'll contact the White House tomorrow. First thing, King he's a sigh relief and thanks him. Vivian then tells him to get some rest. He'll call with an update soon. King thanks him and hangs up. King lies down on his bed staring at the ceiling. He considers what he's just done. And all at once, he's gripped by an overwhelming sense of fear. His limbs feel stiff and he swallows hard. But slowly, he feels himself calming down. As he reminds himself that though his fear is great, his resolve must be greater. Hoover will try to intimidate him, to force him into giving up his cause. But King won't let that happen. Not after he's come this far and not when so many people are counting on him. And so King rises. He grabs a pen and a no pad and begins jotting down ideas for his next speech. It's November 21, 1964. William Sullivan grabs a tape recorder and clicks play. A number of scratchy voices begin to pipe through the speakers and Sullivan leans back in his office chair. Sullivan is the assistant director of the FBI and he feels exhausted. He rubs his stinging eyes and turns on his desk lamp. It looks like it's going to be another long night. The tape was made two days ago and after months of gathering evidence on King, this is the most shocking thing Sullivan has heard yet. In the recording, King talks to one of his lieutenant's CT Vivian. He goes on about J. Edgar Hoover and then plots a course to get Hoover fired. Sullivan can't believe what he's hearing. He doubts President Johnson would take this request seriously but he also can't be certain. And he knows he has to protect Hoover and the Bureau at all costs. The only way to do that is to neutralize King. Sullivan pulls his typewriter close and cracks his neck. Then starts writing a letter to King. In the letter, he doesn't reveal his true identity. Instead, he pretends to be a black man. He calls King a fraud and says that King is a liability to all black Americans. Not only that, he's a guilty man, a man with abnormal behavior. Sullivan pauses and smirks. Then continues, writing that he has proof that King has cheated on his wife, that King is lured and abnormal. He tells King, you are done. Sullivan then types out the final paragraph. King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. Sullivan glances at his calendar and sees that there are 34 days until Christmas. He'll give King that exact deadline to kill himself and if he doesn't, all his sins will be exposed to the nation. Sullivan then reaches down and grabs a tape from his desk drawer. He grins as he turns it over in his hands. Because on this tape is proof that King cheated on his wife, they caught him in the act. Sullivan places the letter and tape in a small box. Then writes King's hall address on the front. He then picks up his phone, calls one of his most trusted agents and tells him to come to the office. There's a package that needs to be delivered immediately. Sullivan sets down the phone, adrenaline coursing through his body. He feels almost giddy. So he stands up and paces around the office. Sullivan then looks again at the calendar on his wall, size and deep satisfaction. Because he's confident that in 34 days, maybe even less, he'll be able to close the file on Martin Luther King Jr. for good. It's a Sunday night in January 1965. Martin Luther King Jr. paces in his kitchen in Atlanta, Georgia. He reaches into his pockets looking for a cigarette, but he's out. Quietly curses under his breath and dips his head as he waits for his wife, Coretta, whose upstairs put in the kids to bed. King grabs a chair and feels himself sinking into it. He should be in high spirits right now. He's been looking forward to 1965 with the expectation that President Johnson would soon sign a Voting Rights Act. Finally, 100 years after the abolition of slavery, black Americans would have the protected right to vote. 100 years. King can only imagine what this would mean for his movement and his people. And yet, as he sits in his kitchen, King can't help but feel a knowing anxiety because he worries that his personal shortcomings have put all this progress at risk. King's heart is thumping in his chest. When his wife comes back down, they'll have the most difficult conversation in their entire 12 year marriage. Earlier today, Coretta opened a package that had sat for weeks among the piles of mail addressed to King. Inside, she found a letter and she found a tape. King was at the office when he got his wife's call, demanding he come home at once. And now King will have to confront his worst mistakes as a human, his biggest failures as a husband. And somehow he'll have to save his marriage and make it up to Coretta. King turns as he hears Coretta coming down the stairs. When she reaches the kitchen, she stops and holds his gaze. Her deep brown eyes are clear and her makeup is intact. She hasn't shed a tear. Something about her strength suddenly hits King with an almost physical force. It's then he himself starts to cry. Stop crying Martin, one of the kids could wake up. You don't want them to see you this way. King wipes his cheeks and tries to keep himself from choking up. I'm so sorry, Coretta. Just tell me the truth. Well the truth? You already know what I did. You heard it all on that tape. King looks down and sees Coretta's hands clench into fists. She pauses and then slowly they uncurl. Do you understand the position you've put me in? Even if I wanted to leave you over this, I could not. Not while you still have work to do. We're an example Martin. You are an example. That doesn't mean it doesn't matter what I'm feeling. But this is bigger than you and me. Coretta, I think I'm not finished Martin. You've made many sacrifices for the good of the movement. I want you to know that after tonight I will never again speak of this tape. That's my sacrifice. I will forgive you. But I want to know why you did those things I heard on the tape. I'll never have a good answer for that. We'll try. King thinks for a moment and wipes his nose. And then the words start to tumble out of him. Everyone expects so much of me. I expect so much of myself. I don't think I'm a saint. But I'm not. I never will be. I smoke. I drink. I can have a bad temper. Good Lord, you know that. Sometimes I just want to feel like a regular person. And not Martin Luther King, Jr. That's not an excuse. No, you're right. It's not. All I can say is I'm sorry. Martin, listen to me. There's more pressure on you than any man should bear. But you knew what this fight would cost you. You have to be smarter than this. I thought you were. I'm counting on you. Our children are counting on you. Future generations of our people are counting on you. We can't afford any more of your mistakes understood. I understand, Corey. So now you've got to decide, are you going to do what the letter says? You're going to take your own life? Of course not. Of course not. Whatever a federal agent sent that recording doesn't understand me at all. You're not that easily understood. What happens if they make good on the thread and tell the whole world, then I'll deal with the fallout. But I won't let them stop me. I promise you that. Good. King looks up from the table and reaches out a hand toward his wife. After several moments, Ceredid puts her hand in his. It's warm and soft. The king gives it a gentle squeeze. He knows that the future is uncertain, but as long as they're together, he can face it. Will you pray with me, Corey? Yes, I will. Together they bow their heads and king starts to pray. He prays for the safety of his family and for strength as they face a perilous and uncertain future. He prays that black people will continue to challenge racism in all its forms. And last but not least, he observes Jesus's command to love one's enemies. And so he prays for the soul of J. Eger Hoover. A year later, J. Eger Hoover sits alone in his Washington DC office. He stares at a piece of paper on his desk and trembles with rage. This is the official FBI order to discontinue surveillance of Martin Luther King Jr. Once Hoover signs this form, his agents will pull back and they'll lose a crucial source of intelligence on the powerful leader. Hoover shuts his eyes and wonders where it all went wrong. Not only is King still alive, it seems to be gaining even more influence now that President Johnson has signed into law the Voting Rights Act. Hoover rises and begins pacing around his office. Right now it feels like his entire world is under siege. Congress started to meddle in his business and they're now taking a look at his surveillance practices. That's the last thing Hoover needs. Those liberals don't understand how things work. Sometimes if you want to protect the country you have to bend the law, but they don't understand. Most of America doesn't understand. And now, as Hoover looks at this paper on his desk, he knows that America is about to pay the price. Because with so much scrutiny, he has no choice but to stop his secret recordings of King. Hoover picks up the pen. He snarls with disgust as he signs the order to end the surveillance of Martin Luther King Jr. Hoover breathes slowly as he considers his next step. So the secret recordings may be over, but he's not done with King. He'll keep watching. King and all the people closest to him. He'll track down everyone who wants to follow in King's footsteps and he'll stamp them out like the insects they are. Hoover knows that black activism is on the rise, but for Hoover it can't succeed. It must not. He'll do everything in his power to make sure he gets his way. Martin Luther King Jr. would overcome the FBI's campaign to intimidate him. And in the mid 1960s he became an increasingly vocal opponent of the Vietnam War. He also expanded his focus to include workers rights and economic inequality. Still, he faced widespread criticism and was accused of being unpatriotic. On April 3rd, 1968, King delivered what would prove to be his final speech at the Mason Temple in Memphis. His plea for racial equality concluded with prophetic words. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land. The next day, King was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. He was 39 years old. William Sullivan's career with the FBI ended in October of 1971. By then Sullivan had grown disenchanted with J. Edgar Hoover's leadership, especially his obsession with communism. After speaking out against Hoover, he was abruptly fired. Hoover would continue to target activists who fought for racial justice, but he would also spearhead a larger campaign aimed at suppressing activists across the country, those who fought for women's rights, opposed the war, and other issues. This program, known as Cointelpro, includes Spine, harassment, psychological warfare, and brute force. It went far beyond the limits of the law and was kept secret from Congress. With it, Hoover commanded enormous power. It was a power he used to abuse the law, and power he used as a license to kill. Next, on American scandal, a young charismatic and fiercely intelligent activist named Fred Hampton has pointed head of Illinois's Black Panther Party, fearing that he will unite Chicago's minority population, the local police department, coordinating with the FBI, targets him for assassination. From Wondry, this is episode two of the Feds vs. the Activists for American scandal. A quick note about our reenactments. In most cases, we can't know exactly what was said, but all our dramatizations are based on historical research. If you'd like to learn more about the Feds vs. the Activists, we recommend the book the FBI and Martin Luther King Jr. from Solo to Memphis, by David J. Kero. American scandal has hosted, edited, and executed produced by me, Lindsay Grapp for Airship, audio editing by Molly Bach, Sound Design by Derek Barons. This episode is written by Hannibal Diaz, edited by Christina Molesbury, produced by Gabe Riven. Executive producers are Stephanie Jens, Jenny Lauer Beckman, and her non Lopez for one.