On the national holiday celebrating the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., social media recognition for King and his legacy became a flashpoint among activists, who cited the incongruence of agencies like the FBI — which famously condemned the civil rights activist during his lifetime — celebrating his memory today.
Historians, authors and activists staged an impromptu history lesson on Twitter Monday to remind the masses that King’s message of non-violence wasn’t welcome by everyone in his time.
At the time of King’s assassination in 1968, a Harris Poll stated that King had a 75 percent disapproval rating.
The CIA was one of the organizations that was met with a backlash after the agency tweeted a photo of King with the words, “Remembering the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” A now-public 48-page file compiled by the CIA shows that the agency was pressing confidential sources for details about King and his relatives’ personal lives, and sent an agent to follow him during his stay at a Miami hotel in July 1966.
“Y’all bold as [hell],” Chicagoan Chance the Rapper tweeted in response to the CIA.
Yall bold asl https://t.co/Rc7gjfo3nt— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) January 21, 2019
U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) was stripped of his congressional leadership roles after he said, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”
So when he tweeted that he agreed with King’s speeches and writings, he drew immediate backlash.
“You have got to be kidding me,” one New York writer responded.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his all for all. I have long agreed with his speeches and writings. Today I think of this MLK quote, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” May we renew ourselves in his teachings so that he can RIP.— Steve King (@SteveKingIA) January 21, 2019
The National Rifle Association noted in a tweet that King had applied for a concealed carry permit but was denied — and used that as an opportunity to tout its efforts to fight gun control. But The Hill noted Monday that King later “abandoned self-defense in favor of complete nonviolent resistance” just a few years after his concealed carry permit was denied and later wrote that he “was much more afraid in Montgomery when I had a gun in my house.”
The National Black Police Association chided the NRA, saying “The total, unmitigated, horrible audacity! Knowing full well that Dr. King would NEVER approve of your agenda! Another misappropriation of black culture to support your misguided mission. Shame!”
The total, unmitigated, horrible audacity! Knowing full well that Dr. King would NEVER approve of your agenda! Another misappropriation of black culture to support your misguided mission. Shame!— NatlBlackPoliceAssn2019 (@TheRealNBPA) January 21, 2019
Twitter users Monday also resurrected a 2017 FBI Tweet that read: “Today, on the anniversary of his assassination, the FBI honors the life, work, & commitment of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to justice.”
Decades earlier, the FBI sent King a letter suggesting that he ought to commit suicide.
Today, on the anniversary of his assassination, the FBI honors the life, work, & commitment of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to justice. pic.twitter.com/WZInYKQx2g— FBI (@FBI) April 4, 2017
William Sullivan, then the head of the FBI’s domestic intelligence division, called King “the most dangerous Negro of the future in this Nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro and national security.”
Now share the letter the FBI sent to MLK threatening to blackmail him unless he committed suicide. https://t.co/3a4RoeoRZo— Zach Carter (@zachjcarter) January 21, 2019