There is no custom code to display.

‘MLK/FBI’ probes ‘the darkest part’ of the bureau’s history

‘MLK/FBI’ probes ‘the darkest part’ of the bureau’s history

The government-sanctioned harassment of Martin Luther King Jr. provides the chilling spine of “MLK/FBI,” a documentary timed to the annual holiday for the civil rights icon. Director Sam Pollard’s film also raises an interesting question — namely, what historians and journalists owe King’s legacy in terms of releasing material amassed specifically in an effort to sully his name.

Former FBI director James Comey describes J. Edgar Hoover’s obsession with King, and his unsettling campaign to discredit him, as “the darkest part of the bureau’s history.” Determined to uncover communist influence within the civil-rights movement, FBI surveillance revealed a more salacious fact — that King was unfaithful to his wife, Coretta Scott King, a disclosure that Hoover sought to use as leverage against him.

Some additional information about the FBI spying on King came out in a document released in 2017. The ugly nature of that hounding included letters threatening exposure and urging him to commit suicide. As one historian notes, Hoover’s broader goal was to hobble the movement that King led by “destroying its figurehead,” a mission that assumed greater urgency in Hoover’s eyes after King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Pollard explores the complicated relationship between King and President Lyndon Johnson, who were allies in championing civil rights before Johnson soured on King when he took a principled stand against the Vietnam War.

Former King aide and Atlanta mayor Andrew Young recalls that the movement’s leadership “assumed the rooms were bugged,” but they couldn’t have anticipated the extent to which the FBI employed paid informants in order to spy on them.

Hoover’s vendetta — stemming from his belief that King was “morally unfit,” says historian David Garrow — offers a troubling portrait of government overreach and wiretapping. Yet the intellectual exercise buried within the film lies in the fact the intelligence gathered is scheduled to become unsealed in 2027, raising issues of how to handle material that is historically significant — in terms of understanding the full extent of the FBI’s transgressions — and horribly intrusive to King’s memory.

The film is fleshed out with fascinating footage of King in various settings, including appearances on talk shows and receiving his Nobel award. The director juxtaposes that with a study of Hoover and the FBI culture he established, while touching lightly on his biography.

“MLK/FBI” not only offers a compelling portrait of what was, but beyond just looking back, sets up a debate about what will be. In the process, the documentary sheds light on a dark part of US history while leaving viewers to contemplate just how dark its more sordid corners should remain.

“MLK/FBI” premieres in select theaters and on demand on Jan. 15.

Recently Played

Entertainment News

Emmanuel Acho will host ‘The Bachelor: After the Final Rose Special,’ replacing Chris Harrison

Former NFL player Emmanuel Acho will be hosting “The Bachelor: After the Final Rose,” replacing host Chris Harrison who stepped aside following a controversial interview.

Acho, the host of the YouTube series “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man,” announced on Saturday he would host the one-hour special for the 25th season.

“I’ve accepted the Rose & am honored to be hosting the @bachelorabc After the Final Rose this year,” Acho tweeted. “It’s been a pivotal season & this episode will be one of the most storied shows in its history. Empathy is needed and change is coming. See y’all then!”

Harrison announced on February 13 he was “stepping aside” from the show “for a period of time” after defending a frontrunner on the current season who came under scrutiny for social media photos from her past.

Harrison apologized after speaking out on behalf of Rachael Kirkconnell, a contestant who was reportedly photographed at an antebellum plantation-themed fraternity formal in 2018.

It is unclear how long Harrison will be stepping aside.

This is the 25th season of ABC’s enormously popular reality dating franchise and the first in which ABC cast a Black man, Matt James, as the show’s star.

During the episode, Acho “will sit down with Bachelor Matt James to discuss his season, his final decision and where he is now, as well as cover the current events about the franchise,” ABC said in a press release.

The on-air personality and bestselling author will also speak to the season’s final three women: Kirkconnell, Michelle Young and Bri Springs.

The special episode will air on Monday, March 15, immediately after the season finale of “The Bachelor.”

What the controversy over ‘Minari’ says about being American

What the controversy over ‘Minari’ says about being American

Monica Yi stares at a rickety trailer in the middle of an empty field in rural Arkansas. “What is this place?” the stunned wife asks her husband. Jacob Yi replies without hesitation: “Our home.” It’s the opening scene of “Minari.” These words, like many lines in the movie, are spoken in Korean. Jacob and Monica…Continue Reading

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 4 trailer is here

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Season 4 trailer is here

Elisabeth Moss’s June is on the run in the new teaser for Season 4 of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” There’s eery silence on the road as she tries to get to Canada after escaping Gilead. Ann Dowd’s Aunt Lydia knows it’s no ordinary escape, though. “She’s out there planning who knows what kind of atrocities to…Continue Reading

There is no custom code to display.