Martin Luther King's hate mail eerily resembles criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement


In the last year or so, as the Black Lives Matter movement has taken off, the cause has been criticized by (mostly) white people asking, “Yeah, but what about this?”

It turns out that this argument has been in style for at least half a century.

Indeed, this type of discourse is nothing new, as we can see when we examine the hate mail that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. received during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. It’s overwhelming how the fear of the status quo being changed has been something white America can’t stop thinking about—and loudly announcing how it’s a problem—for so long now. These messages could have been written yesterday in the comments of a Facebook post as easily as they were on stationery or in a telegram 50 years ago.

Anonymity was key, of course.

“What about the violence by blacks in these cities?
What is this Black Power business? If it is a threat to Whites— why should Whites not retaliate? Why should Whites hire Blacks?
“Hang your head in shame.
You are responsible for all of these riots and havoc in this country today.”
“The hatred between the race is now at an all time peak and will get worse as the niggers continue to beat, rape and murder white women and girls.
A former friend of the negro, now a nigger hater”
“You don’t point out any FAULTS at all of your own people, just the whites.”

“How can you be a minster and have such hatred in your heart for the ‘white’-race and the Nation in general?

Do return that ‘Nobel-peace-prize’ that we bestowed upon you, (as a great honor) so we can give it to some one who really deserves it.”

As far as we can tell, that one was not sent by a member of the Nobel Committee.

“Your own day soon, I hope, will find out what you really are.
“It certainly must take unmititgated gall to ask the public, particularly “WHITEY” for funds to keep you and your ilk rolling along in the manner to which you have become to visibly accustomed.
“Your false image is beginning to catch up with your as well as others.
I believe and contribute to any cause for advancing human dignity.
With the best of bad luck to you, I am,
“It would be well if every American Negro compared his position and opportunity with that of his race in other countries. He would find that in none does the Negro have the advantages the United States gives him. As justified as may be many of the demands Negroes make, they are not the only matter of importance in the world.”

For more jaw-dropping cruelty and racism, check out The Painted Walrus’ full collection of hate mail on Imgur and The King Center.

David Matthews operates the Wayback Machine on—hop on. Got a tip? Email him: [email protected]

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