The graphic contents of an anonymous letter in which the Federal Bureau of Investigation called Martin Luther King a “filthy abnormal animal” have been made public for the first time.
Written in 1964 by a deputy of the feared FBI chief J Edgar Hoover posing as a disillusioned civil rights activist, the typewritten note appears to have been a heavy-handed attempt to blackmail King into taking his own life.
Already a notorious footnote in American history, the “suicide letter” was heavily censored when it was first published, with most of its more outrageous language remaining secret.
However, the full contents of the note have now been made public after a Beverly Gage, a historian from Yale University unearthed an unredacted copy in the National Archive while researching a book on Hoover.
It shows that in his attempt to goad King, William Sullivan, the agent identified as the author of the letter, stooped to the use of near-hysterical sexual slurs against the already-revered pastor, who would go on to be assassinated three years later.