Breakthrough on MLK Death Coverage?


As the 50th anniversary of the April 4 murder of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. approaches, the Washington Post published on its front page this week a news report quoting the King Family and other experts as expressing doubt about the official story that the convicted killer acted alone, or even at all, to  kill the nation's pre-eminent civil rights leader of modern times.

This is the way that Tom Jackman, an experienced reporter, began his in-depth analysis titled The Past Rediscovered: Who killed Martin Luther King Jr.? His family believes James Earl Ray was framed:

In the five decades since Martin Luther King Jr. was shot dead by an assassin at age 39, his children have worked tirelessly to preserve his legacy, sometimes with sharply different views on how best to do that. But they are unanimous on one key point: James Earl Ray did not kill Martin Luther King.

For the King family and others in the civil rights movement, the FBI’s obsession with King in the years leading up to his slaying in Memphis on April 4, 1968 — pervasive surveillance, a malicious disinformation campaign and open denunciations by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover — laid the groundwork for their belief that he was the target of a plot.

The story represented a major breakthrough in mainstream news coverage, according to King’s friend Dr. William F. Pepper, whom Jackman quoted extensively because of Pepper's decades of work as a street-savvy investigator, an attorney, and a best-selling author seeking to solve the murder.

Pepper's 2003 William Pepper Act of Statebook An Act of State, shown at left and featuring King and his wife Coretta Scott King on the cover, is the second of a trilogy by Pepper documenting evidence that conspirators murdered the civil rights leader to stop his evolving social movement. At the time of the 1968 assassination, that movement was expanding from a largely civil rights movement with roots in the Jim Crow Deep South to nationwide anti-war and economic justice crusade that some believe threatened the nation's power structure, not just bigots.

Pepper, also a noted human rights advocate who has taught at Oxford University, worked with King family members who also believe that a plot by power brokers to remove King from the American political scene included a media-assisted frame-up of the accused killer Ray, a petty criminal and eighth-grade dropout who could be vilified as a lone-nut murderer.

“The article,” Pepper told the Justice Integrity Project regarding Jackman's Post piece, “is a major breakthrough for the mainstream media, which has refused to cover the truth about the murder of Dr. King."

"Hopefully," Pepper continued in an exclusive interview with the Justice Integrity Project, "this initiative will extend to others in the mainstream media who will be reporting on the 50th anniversary in June on the death of Robert F. Kennedy, whose accused killer Sirhan Sirhan was another patsy like James Earl Ray.”

William Pepper and Martin Luther King Jr.Pepper, a friend also of Kennedy, is shown with King in a 1967 photo by Ben Fernandez as Pepper and King conferred before King's keynote speech at the National Conference for New Politics in Chicago. King was evolving his message then to a much broader movement than anti-segregation efforts in the South.

Pepper was a journalist and political activist in the 1960s and later found himself in the unusual position of becoming convinced that the convicted killers Ray and Sirhan of Pepper's friends King and Kennedy were innocent of their deaths  as shown by ballistics evidence.

King's Fatal 1968 Memphis Trip

King had been visiting Memphis in support of striking sanitation workers as part of his mission to add economic justice to the traditional civil rights agendas of integration and voting rights. He was hit with one bullet on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968.

James Earl Ray 1955 prison Ray, a small-time criminal shown in a 1955 photo, had been set up by authorities in advance to rent a room across the street from the motel, experts like Pepper argue. Ray became the fall guy blamed for the killing, Pepper said. Ray escaped from the scene but was later arrested in England.

The defendant in effect pleaded guilty under the "Alford Doctrine" whereby defendants do not contest the prosecution's evidence. But Ray unsuccessfully tried to recant three days later and for the rest of his life until his 1998 death. Ray said he had been conned into pleading guilty after being threatened with certain execution if he did not plead guilty.

In 1999, Pepper represented the King family in arguing to a Tennessee jury that ballistics showed that Ray's rifle could not have fired the fatal bullet and that King was killed because of a conspiracy involving Mafia and U.S. government personnel. In a decision virtually ignored by the media, the jury awarded the King family nominal damages in naming Memphis grill owner Loyd Jowers and unnamed others as part of a conspiracy.

Subsequent evidence, including a new book published last month about FBI infiltratration of the civil rights movement, shows that FBI and other top government officials smeared and monitored King and worked closely at times with Deep South mafia figures and other well-placed opponents to target him. The new book is A Spy in Canaan: How the FBI Used a Famous Photographer To Infiltrate The Civil Rights Movement.

The author Marc marc perrusquia spy in canaan ernest withersPerrusquia is a reporter for the Memphis Commercial Appeal show showed that the African-American photographer Ernest Withers, who took many of the most iconic photos of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, was also an FBI informant. Details are below in an appendix to this column.

Pepper has recalled that after King's death in April 1968 he met with Robert Kennedy, who was just starting his insurgent antiwar campaign to replace incumbent Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson. "Bobby asked me," Pepper says, "to work on his campaign. I said no. I walked away."

Pepper said he was too devastated after King's death to continue in American politics or law. He became an acclaimed human rights lawyer, based in the United Kingdom for much of his career. But a decade after James Earl Ray's conviction in the King death Pepper began exploring evidence that he was innocent. He agreed to represent Ray.

Robert Kennedy Eliminated

Meanwhile, Kennedy, a New York senator campaigning for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination, was killed in a pantry of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 6, 1968. This was just after his victory in that year’s California primary seemed to assure him of his party’s nomination at the national convention in Chicago in July.

After the murder Sirhan was convicted at trial in which his defense attorney was compromised by secret government charges against the attorney in another case. That provided a strong motive for him to concede Sirhan's guilt without vigorously disputing the government's extremely shaky evidence and dubious investigation of alternative leads and suspects.

thomas noguchiAmong the notable questions: Los Angeles County Coronor Dr. Thomas Noguchi's report showed that Kennedy had been killed from a bullet fired at point blank range at the rear of his head whereas Sirhan was always several feet in front of Kennedy, according to witnesses.

Noguchi is shown at left. He, Pepper and other experts will speak on these topics at Of Kennedys & Kings: Reinvestigating the RFK and MLK Assassinations at 50, a major conference organized by the Cyril H. Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law from May 3-4 at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. This editor is moderates an RFK panel.

Pepper last summer filed a 200-page legal brief with the Organization of American States' Human Rights Commission seeking a new trial or evidentiary hearing for Sirhan. Sirhan, eligible for parole since the early 1980s, is repeatedly denied in his requests by California authorities. Paul Schrade, a friend of Kennedys whom Sirhan shot, is among those speaking at the Pittsburgh conference and arguing that Sirhan could not possibly have killed Kennedy..

Many observers believe that Sirhan, who says he remembers nothing of the prelude to the shooting, was a mind control victim lured to the spot and set up as the patsy while the real killers escaped.

cyril wecht mlk rfk 2018 event logo

Press and Political Cowardice

Many books have been written pro and con regarding the official verdicts in both the King and Kennedy murders.

Yet mainstream media and academics, obivously leery of being smeared with the "conspiracy theorist" label that kills careers on such matters, tend to ignore books and documentaries exploring evidence contrary to official verdicts.

Even so, isolated reporters, authors, academics, film makers and government officials have long struggled against a media blackout even more forbidding than similar ones regarding the debate about President John F. Kennedy's assassination and the Warren Commission report b blaming the murder entirely on Lee Harvey Oswald.

For such reasons, the Justice Integrity Project has published "Readers Guides" excerpted below that encompass major works of all significant viewpoints.

Pepper and other human rights figures quoted in the Post article published on April 2 experienced a rare opportunity to voice their doubts about the official narrative of the King assassination.

Thus, it was rare and meaningful that the Post's Jackman would include the quotations below -- and that the newspaper would feature the story high on its front page and with an entire page of runover.

Until her own death in 2006, Coretta Scott King, who endured the FBI’s campaign to discredit her husband, was open in her belief that a conspiracy led to the assassination....“There is abundant evidence,” Coretta King said after the verdict, “of a major, high-level conspiracy in the assassination of my husband.” The jury found the mafia and various government agencies “were deeply involved in the assassination. … Mr. Ray was set up to take the blame.”

Among others quoted as dissenting from the conventional wisdom:

King’s two other surviving children, Dexter, 57, and Martin III, 60, fully agree that Ray was innocent. And their view of the case is shared by other respected black leaders.

“I think there was a major conspiracy to remove Doctor King from the American scene,” said Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a support your theory.” He remains adamant that Ray was the gunman but likely had help that should have been investigated in 1968 and was not.

 As the iconic 50th anniversary of King's death approaches on April 4, it happens that the credibility of even such powerful media as the Post is under assault as "fake news" or at least bias, according to accusations from President Trump and many others across the political spectrum.

Why This Matters Now

More than almost anyone in recent history, King's was a Black life that "mattered."  While his legacy is aptly celebrated these days the premature extinction of that life and legacy should not be ignored simply because it might be too inconvenient or too controversial to explore.

As New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison memorably described in a 1967 statement (available

) about why he was investigating the conspiracy to murder President Kennedy, the American people are not children who need to be protected fairy tells by press lords who deny the harsh realities behind the president's murder. Neither is it appropriate to hide the facts surrounding the deaths of King and Robert Kennedy.

The general public sees through those lies and beomces susceptable to wild tales about more current controversies. These include uncertainties about the Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe of the Trump campaigna and administration and a host of other issues, including claims of "fake news" and a "Deep State" of unelected power brokers orchestrating events.

A healthy mainstream media and other institutions are vital to a decent way of life. But they must earn credibility by tackling the most difficult topics. The Washington Post did this week on the King case. Others should follow that lead. . 


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Justice Integrity Project "Readers Guide to the MLK Assassination"

  1. Martin Luther King at NPCReaders Guide To The MLK Assassination: Books, Videos, Archives, curated by Andrew Kreig. The Justice Integrity Project presents a "Readers Guide to the MLK Assassination" of key books, videos, documents, websites and other archives most relevant to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s murder on April 4, 1968.
  2. Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Enhanced By Historic Discovery, Jan. 18, 2016. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is forever enhanced by discovery of a 24-minute recording of his first meeting with the national media, which occurred during a 1962 speech that was the first ever by an African American at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
  3. William Pepper, Friend of MLK, RFK, Slams Murder Cover-ups, June 1, 2016. Murder of political leaders is a common problem, according to noted historian and human rights attorney William Pepper, who believes cover-up ruins the legacy of his friends Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.


Other Assassination "Readers Guides"

Readers Guide To RFK Assassination: Books, Videos, Archives, Curated by Andrew Kreig.

Readers Guide To JFK Assassination: Books, Videos, Archives, Curated by Andrew Kreig.


Related News Coverage

(Listed in chronological order, beginning on March 30, 2018)

martin luther king injustice quote

washington post logoWashington Post, Who killed Martin Luther King Jr.? His family believes James Earl Ray was framed, Tom Jackman, March 30, 2018. In the five decades since Martin Luther King Jr. was shot dead by an assassin at age 39, his children have worked tirelessly to preserve his legacy, sometimes with sharply different views on how best to do that. But they are unanimous on one key point: James Earl Ray did not kill Martin Luther King.

For the King family and others in the civil rights movement, the FBI’s obsession with King in the years leading up to his slaying in Memphis on April 4, 1968 — pervasive surveillance, a malicious disinformation campaign and open denunciations by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover — laid the groundwork for their belief that he was the target of a plot.

“It pains my heart,” said Bernice King, 55, the youngest of Martin Luther King’s four children and the executive director of the King Center in Atlanta, “that James Earl Ray had to spend his life in prison paying for things he didn’t do.”

Until her own death in 2006, Coretta Scott King, who endured the FBI’s campaign to discredit her husband, was open in her belief that a conspiracy led to the assassination. Her family filed a civil suit in 1999 to force more information into the public eye, and a Memphis jury ruled that the local, state and federal governments were liable for King’s death. The full transcript of the trial remains posted on the King Center’s website.

“There is abundant evidence,” Coretta King said after the verdict, “of a major, high-level conspiracy in the assassination of my husband.” The jury found the mafia and various government agencies “were deeply involved in the assassination. … Mr. Ray was set up to take the blame.”

But nothing changed afterward. No vast sums of money were awarded (the Kings sought only $100), and Ray was not exonerated.

King’s two other surviving children, Dexter, 57, and Martin III, 60, fully agree that Ray was innocent. And their view of the case is shared by other respected black leaders.

john lewis official“I think there was a major conspiracy to remove Dr. King from the American scene,” said Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a 78-year-old civil rights icon (shown at left). “I don’t know what happened, but the truth of what happened to Dr. King should be made available for history’s sake.”

Andrew Young, the former U.N. ambassador and Atlanta mayor who was at the Lorraine Motel with King when he was shot there, agrees. “I would not accept the fact that James Earl Ray pulled the trigger, and that’s all that matters,” said Young, who noted that King’s death came after the killings of John F. Kennedy and Malcolm X and just months before the slaying of Robert F. Kennedy.

william pepper plot to kill 2016Astride all this controversy for the last 40 years has been William Pepper, a New York lawyer and civil rights activist who knew and worked with King. Pepper first visited Ray in prison in 1978 along with Ralph Abernathy, one of King’s closest associates. Pepper became convinced of Ray’s innocence and continued to investigate the case even after Ray died.

Pepper wrote three books outlining the conspiracy, most recently The Plot to Kill King in 2016, which were largely ignored by the media.

He defended Ray in a mock trial on HBO in 1993 (Ray was found not guilty), and filed and tried the Memphis civil suit that found the government liable for King’s death.

washington post logoWashington Post, This black photographer befriended rights leaders and fed info on them to the FBI, Book Review: A Spy in Canaan by Marc marc perrusquia spy in canaan ernest withersPerrusquia (Melville House)] by Aram Goudsouzian, April 1, 2018 (print edition). Aram Goudsouzian is the author of “Down to the Crossroads: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Meredith March Against Fear” and the co-editor, with Charles McKinney, of “An Unseen Light: Struggles for Black Freedom in Memphis, Tennessee.”

You know the photograph [shown at right on the cover of the new book A Spy In Canaan]. It is from 1968, one week before the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. A sea of signs, proclaiming “I AM A MAN.” A sharp line of black sanitation workers, ready to march through Memphis. A purse-wielding woman in the left foreground, and a slim man walking across the line, gazing right at the camera.

The man behind the camera was Ernest Withers. Besides that iconic photograph, he supplied scores of images that shape our memory of the civil rights movement. He captured the dramatic moment in a Mississippi courtroom when Moses Wright identified the abductor of his great-nephew Emmett Till. He snapped the perfect shot of King staring balefully out a window while integrating a bus in Montgomery. He photographed the Freedom Rides, the funeral of Medgar Evers and James Meredith’s March Against Fear.

Withers was also a paid informant for the FBI. That news broke in September 2010, after the Memphis Commercial Appeal published a report by Marc Perrusquia. The reporter (shown at left) marc perrusquiahad exploited a clerical error to learn that Withers had supplied information to FBI agents from at least 1968 to 1970.

That bombshell raised as many questions as it answered. What was Withers’s exact role? When did it begin and end? What was its impact? Most important, why? Why did this great black photographer spy on a movement for black freedom?

Perrusquia’s new book, A Spy in Canaan, fleshes out critical details in the Withers saga. It is a triumph of investigative reporting, the product of the author’s dogged research and a bold lawsuit backed by the Commercial Appeal. It also stirs an appetite for a richer history of the civil rights movement, though it cannot satisfy that hunger.

Wikipedia: Ernest C. Withers (August 7, 1922 – October 15, 2007) was an American photojournalist. He is best known for capturing over 60 years of African American history in the segregated South, with iconic images of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Emmett Till, Sanitation Worker's Strike, Negro league baseball, and musicians including those related to Memphis blues and Memphis soul.

ny times logoNew York Times, Television: Seeing Martin Luther King Jr. in a New Light, Salamishah Tillet, April 2, 2018 (print edition). The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., more than most civil rights leaders, understood the singular role that television played in documenting the brutality of racial violence on African-Americans and eliciting sympathy from white viewers.

Martin Luther King postage stampAs three new television documentaries marking the 50th anniversary of his assassination show, King embraced prime time news television coverage as a matter of political strategy and survival through his savvy use of sound bites, well-timed protests and the practice of nonviolence in the face of abuse.

These documentaries share much in common. They feature some familiar civil rights voices, most notably those of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee activists John Lewis and Diane Nash, and reveal how King’s relationships with the news media and the movement waned dramatically in his final years. And they attempt to present a more radical version of King to a new generation of viewers, with varying degrees of success.

Martin Lurther King at DC March 1963“Hope & Fury: MLK, the Movement and the Media,” which aired on NBC in late March and returns on MSNBC on April 1, is a two-hour documentary about the strained yet symbiotic relationship between civil rights activists and the emergent nightly television news. “We felt there was so much hagiography of the movement and a flattening of the characters into a one-dimensional portrait,” said Rachel Dretzin, a producer and co-director; Andrew Lack, chairman of NBC News and MSNBC, is executive producer. “The decision to focus on the political savvy and the sophistication of King and other leaders of the movement ended up making it much more dimensional and interesting to us.”In the NBC documentary “Hope & Fury: MLK, the Movement and the Media,” students are hit by a water hose during a peaceful walk in Birmingham, Ala., on May 3, 1963. Credit NBC

Opening with Andrew Young’s declaration that “one of the reasons Martin Luther King was so successful was that he understood television,” “Hope & Fury” begins with the invisibility of black life and racial suffering on American television before the 1957 coverage of the black students who desegregated Central High School in Little Rock, Ark. Before, it was black newspapers like The Baltimore Afro-American and The Chicago Defender that provided comprehensive reporting on African-Americans. The film reminds us that television images of federal troops protecting brave and innocent black youth from white protesters was new for white Americans and helped spark people’s consciences.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Quotation “Hope & Fury” largely relies on archival footage and commentary from former civil rights activists and historians as well as journalists both veteran (Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, Moses Newson) and contemporary (Nikole Hannah-Jones of The New York Times and Chris Hayes and Joy-Ann Reid of MSNBC). And while an intense focus on the importance of television by a major news network risks veering toward the self-congratulatory, the film’s strength lies in its acknowledgment of a singular debt, not just to King, but to an ensemble of civil rights leaders. “Hope & Fury” is careful to show that it was the momentum of the civil rights movement that helped increase the audience of evening news, expand its format and enshrine its authority.Photo

The NBC news anchor Lester Holt in “Hope & Fury,” which examines the strained yet symbiotic relationship between civil rights activists and the emergent nightly television news. Credit NBC

On April 4 on the Paramount Network, “I Am MLK Jr.” will showcase the highlights of King’s activism, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the March on Washington. Directed by John Barbisan and Michael Hamilton, the documentary features older civil rights leaders like Jesse Jackson, contemporary media personalities like Van Jones and celebrities like Nick Cannon. An interview with Shaun King, a key figure in Black Lives Matter, is the film’s most obvious nod to how King’s activism has inspired action today. But, with the notable exception of Ms. Nash and a few others including her fellow SNCC member Rutha Mae Harris, the largely patrilineal tradition of black activism portrayed here overlooks those girls and women of color who have long been at the forefront of social justice movements.

Turning to the final chapters of King’s life, HBO’s “King in the Wilderness,” airing on April 2, presents an image of King that might be familiar to academics and leftist activists but unrecognizable to many Americans. The filmmakers pulled hundreds of news accounts from 1968-2014 about King, said Peter Kunhardt, the director. In most, he said, “the reporter would summarize him with the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.” He went on, “It never went beyond that. So we were pleased to not deal with that aspect and look at the nightmare the dream turned into.”

 supreme court building

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: What the Supreme Court Doesn’t Get About Racism, Editorial board, April 3, 2018 (print edition). The court has a chance to be more honest than it has been about discriminatory voting laws.

This is part of a series on voting in America, which will run up to Election Day in November. For Part 1, on the importance of voting, go here. And for Part 2, on a court case over a Kansas voter registration law, go here.

martin luther king riot is language of unheardIn the last speech of his life, on April 3, 1968, in Memphis, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. laid out the case for the dignity and equality of African-Americans as simply as he could. “We aren’t engaged in any negative protest and in any negative arguments with anybody. We are saying that we are determined to be men. We are determined to be people,” he said. “All we say to America is, ‘Be true to what you said on paper.’”

The moral clarity of that appeal is bracing, and so is the difficulty of achieving it — a fact that is evident nowhere as much as in the fight for voting rights. As Dr. King knew well, the history of voting in the United States was, and is, in large part the history of white people in power devising endless ways to keep black people from casting a ballot.

In the years before Mr. Trump’s election and in the time since, Republican lawmakers around the country aggressively pushed through laws to make voting harder for certain groups, particularly minorities. Poll taxes and literacy tests have given way to voter-ID laws, cutbacks to early voting and same-day registration, polling place closings, voter-roll purges, racially discriminatory redistricting and felon disenfranchisement laws — most of which, though justified on race-neutral grounds, harm minority voters more.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Lone Journalist on the Scene When King Was Shot and the Newsroom He Rallied, Staff report, April 3, 2018. Earl Caldwell wrote history on the night of April 4, 1968, when he reported firsthand on the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. for The New York Times. But he made history right before that, when he became the first black reporter The Times had assigned to follow the civil rights leader.

That night, Caldwell spearheaded the dozens of reporters, editors and photographers hastily assembled for the story — an additional first for a black journalist and, in a larger sense, another result of the campaign for greater black inclusion in American life that King had come to personify over the previous 13 years.

The milestones in King’s career — the Montgomery bus boycott, the protests in Birmingham, the marches on Washington and from Selma to Montgomery — had always been the province of white correspondents, principally native Southerners (Claude Sitton, Roy Reed, Gene Roberts and John Herbers, among them) steeped in racial matters for whom the major stops on the civil rights itinerary represented home turf. But that changed when King, in Memphis to support striking local sanitation workers, and Caldwell, there to follow him around, each checked into the Lorraine Motel on April 3.

phil nelson mlk coverSalon, LBJ vs. MLK: The truth about Johnson’s twisted approach to civil rights, Phillip F. Nelson, April 3, 2018. Excerpted with permission from Who REALLY Killed Martin Luther King Jr.? by Phillip F Nelson (published by Skyhorse, April 2018)..

The so-called collaboration between Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr was brief and contentious.

Winston Churchill famously said, “History is written by the victors.” Truth is often the first casualty in the aftermath of conflict. The creation of mythological stories about real-life historical figures has become entrenched in every facet of American culture for a very long time. It can be argued that the legacies of many of the founders and early presidents—from Thomas Jefferson to Abraham Lincoln—have been written in such a way as to hide or minimize their less noble acts and highlight their most glorious accomplishments.

Likewise, the same phenomenon has prevailed with modern-day politicians fortunate enough to succeed to the highest offices. In the case of mid-twentieth-century leaders, it has taken nearly five decades for truth-seekers to sift out the myths — composed of subtle deceits and brazen lies — from the basest pure truths.

President Lyndon Johnson and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover are the clearest examples of how the tension between myths and truths is still being wrought, in a continuing cultural movement that has no end in sight.

Three days before the opening of the movie "Selma," the self-described “historian” Mark Updegrove (the previous director — and recently named president — of the taxpayer-financed Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library), having seen a preview, then wrote a critical review, as if to prove Churchill’s original point.

martin luther king lbjHis article, published in Politico (“What ‘Selma’ Gets Wrong,” December 22, 2014), stated that the movie distorted the relationship between President Johnson and the civil rights leader. Ironically, Updegrove claimed that the movie misrepresented historical truth when in fact it is Updegrove’s narrative that repeats the sanitized, mythical “history” of what was, in reality, a highly fractured, poisoned, and extremely short relationship between LBJ and MLK as their narrow mutual goals briefly intersected with their individual pursuits. (The two are shown together at the White House before their break.)

Memphis Commercial Appeal via USA Network, MLK50 in Memphis: Historian Taylor Branch urges nonviolence at symposium, Marc Perrusquia, April 3, 2018. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Taylor Branch encouraged America to reject cynicism and embrace optimism as it negotiates a range of modern civil rights skirmishes, from the debate over police shootings to sexual harassment.

taylor branch parting the waters cover"We're trapped in cynicism,'' said Branch, delivering the keynote address Tuesday for the National Civil Rights Museum's MLK50 symposium, "Where Do We Go From Here?'' Branch, best known for his America in the King Years' trilogy detailing the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement's critical years, 1954 to 1968, told an estimated 800 guests at a University of Memphis luncheon that King was one of this nation's great optimists

. "We turned away from the message of Dr. King for 50 years,'' said the 71-year-old author, emphasizing that while King was no Pollyanna, he found hope in the nation's darkest corners. "The American people are infected with with racism. That is our peril,'' Branch said, quoting King. "The American people are also infected with democratic ideals. That is our hope.''

Branch's speech came fifty years to the day of King's last oration, his famous "Mountaintop Speech,'' and highlights three days of observances this week of King's April 4, 1968, assassination in Memphis, its 50th anniversary coming Wednesday.Branch won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1989 for his initial tome in the trilogy, Parting the Waters (shown at right), which chronicled the movement's early years, 1954-1963. He spoke also of his role as executive producer of HBO’s just-released “King in the Wilderness,” a documentary exploring the final year and a half of King's life. The film [trailer here 2:13 mins] focuses on the conflict surrounding the civil rights leader's controversial opposition to the Vietnam War and challenges he faced from younger, more militant leaders within the movement.

Memphis Commercial Appeal via USA Network, Panelists discuss why Memphis has seen little progress since MLK's death, Tom Charlier, April 3, 2018. A half-century after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated while crusading on behalf of poor sanitation workers in Memphis, local childhood poverty and black incarceration rates continue to soar, and the income gap between African-American and white households shows no sign of narrowing.

As panelists in a Tuesday discussion titled "Memphis 50 Years Later/Marching Forward" see it, those conditions didn't occur by accident. They are rooted in a historic plantation-style economy built on low wages and segregation.

"We need poor people. We don't want poor people to be educated, we don't want poor people to have access to decent wages. We attract people here because of that poverty, so...are we really invested in fixing it?" said Charles McKinney, associate professor of history at Rhodes College.

McKinney and four other panelists shared a stage at the University of Memphis to discuss Memphis' progress — or lack thereof — since King's assassination on April 4, 1968. The event was part of the National Civil Rights Museum's two-day MLK50 Symposium. The panelists spent most of their time outlining the local impediments to equality and fairness — everything from poor public transportation to disparities in school suspension rates to the lack of well-paying jobs.

"We've lost so many unions," said Michael Honey, a professor of the humanities at the University of Washington, Tacoma. "That used to be the entree point for the black middle class."

carrie johnson nprNational Public Radio, 1968: How We Got Here: Conspiracy Theories About MLK's Death Continue, But Investigators Say Case Is Closed, Mary Louise Kelly, host; Justice reporter Carrie Johnson (right) and Audrey McNamara (intern), April 4, 2018. Authorities have investigated the death of Martin Luther King Jr. five times since his murder in April 1968. Congress, district attorneys and the Justice Department have all concluded that James Earl Ray shot King as he stood on a motel balcony in Memphis, but conspiracy theories about who was responsible for his death continue to flourish.

Justice Integrity Project editor's note on story above: The column above demonstrates the continued once-over-lightly if not disinformation approach of the mainstream media to the topic of cause of death. NPR's reporter Carrie Johnson (@johnson_carrie) demonstrates deference to selected former government authorities without any evident familiarity with the evidence itself. Thus, she and her network repeatedly misspell the name of the main defendant in the King family's civil suit, erroneously spelling his name as "Lloyd Jowers" instead of using the actual first name of "Loyd."

ny times logoNew York Times, Where Today’s Black Church Leaders Stand on Activism, John Eligon, April 4, 2018 (print edition). Fifty years after the assassination, black pastors are issuing a call to action and using different methods to achieve common goals.

stuart wexler larry hancock killing kingCounterpoint Books, Killing King: Racial Terrorists, James Early Ray, and the Plot to Assassinate Martin Luther King Jr. by Stuart Wexler and Larry Hancock, April 4, 2018.

A message from co-author Larry Hancock: Killing King represents some eight years of research on the conspiracy that actually assassinated MLK Jr. It represents brand new research, explores leads only superficially examined by the FBI, identifies new sources and new suspects and is unlike anything you have read previously (unless you read The Awful Grace of God).

This new edition takes our study much deeper, with new documents which were not available previously and most importantly with some new names and connections, especially in connection to the money behind the plot, where it was raised and how it was moved - and connecting those names to James Earl Ray. The book also deals with the reasons why this story has not emerged up to this point in time. Enough said, if you want to sample the book and get a feel for its direction, the first chapter is available for free viewing now, courtesy of CrimeReads. You can find it here., MLK 50 Years Later: Truth and Reconciliation, Mark Robinowitz, April 4, 20128.  50 years ago, on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered in Memphis. Now, MLK is a cultural icon, memorialized by the federal holiday, with schools and roads named in his honor.

mlk head shot 1He is best known for his “I have a dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington, but King’s legacy is far broader. In 1964, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He received this as a responsibility to do more.

On April 4, 1967, at Riverside Church in New York City, he gave perhaps his most powerful speech, “Beyond Vietnam,” an indictment of what he called the “triple evils” of racism, militarism and poverty. Virtually the entire media attacked Dr. King for denouncing the war. Many of his allies ostracized him. Donations dropped to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He was never invited to the White House again.

In a 2016 article for Sojourners magazine, Rabbi Arthur Waskow recalled that King’s “friend and co-worker Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was heard to mutter than by giving this profoundly radical speech he had signed his death warrant -- and indeed, exactly one year later, he was murdered.”

When King was killed, he had been organizing the “Poor People’s Campaign,” a second March on Washington. The plan was to camp on the National Mall by the US Capitol to demand the government address poverty (not only African Americans). Federal government leaders saw this as a dangerous threat. They feared MLK would not be able to keep the protest non-violent, especially after their demands were not met.

The official narrative of King’s assassination is that he was killed by James Earl Ray, supposedly a lone racist motivated by hate. King had received countless racist threats, but racism was not the only reason he was killed.

After some years, the King family suspected that James Earl Ray, the accused killer, was not the murderer. They asked their friend, attorney William Pepper, to investigate. Pepper had helped persuade King to speak out more against the war on Vietnam, and toward the end of Ray’s life, became Ray’s attorney.

Ray never had a trial. He was coerced into pleading guilty to avoid the electric chair -- and spent the rest of his life trying to withdraw that plea. The King family eventually supported Ray’s (unsuccessful) effort for a trial.

Ray died in prison in 1998. In 1999, the family filed a suit against Loyd Jowers and “other unknown co-conspirators.” Jowers owned the rooming house next to the Lorraine Motel where King was shot. He had admitted, in a public interview and in talks with Dexter King and Andrew Young, to have hidden the rifle that was used; fired, he said, by a Memphis police sharpshooter.

One piece of evidence that Ray was framed: several eyewitnesses said the shot was fired from bushes outside the rooming house. (Ray supposedly shot MLK from inside the building.). The next day, the City of Memphis cut down the bushes.

While Ray was a fugitive in Canada, he used multiple identities for actual people who superficially resembled him, a feat that required access to centralized government databases.

King v. Jowers did not seek to prosecute or punish anyone, but to use the legal system to expose the truth. (They only asked for a symbolic fine of $100 and no jail time.) The family was inspired by the “Truth and Reconciliation” process pioneered in South Africa after Apartheid, which gave amnesty for politically motivated crimes if the perpetrators were willing to confess in public. The jury heard three weeks of testimony and took one hour to reach a verdict: elements in the federal and local governments conspired with organized crime to kill King.

The family said the trial was “everything that the family members have to say about the assassination.” They said they “have done our part [and] those of you, if you find it in your hearts to get the ‘powers that be’ to officialize what 12 independent people have already done, that is your business.” Since then, there has not been a groundswell to highlight the implications for civil rights, issues of peace and war, and the contrast of poverty in the wealthiest nation in history.

Truth and Reconciliation applies not only to the perpetrators who ordered this and similar crimes of state, but also to the citizenry who have been hesitant to admit unpleasant parts of our history. The King family’s message of love and reconciliation could free our society from fear and divisiveness to reach our positive potentials.

Mark Robinowitz publishes, about President Kennedy’s 1963 effort to end the Cold War and convert the Moon race to a joint US – Soviet mission. He will present a paper on “Truth and Reconciliation for the National Insecurity State” at “Of Kennedys and Kings: Reinvestigating the RFK and MLK assassinations at 50.” Details at

Salon, Martin Luther King Jr. had a much more radical message than a dream of racial brotherhood, Paul Harvey (Professor of American History, University of Colorado), April 5, 2018. Martin Luther King Jr. has come to be revered as a hero who led a nonviolent struggle to reform and redeem the United States. His birthday is celebrated as a national holiday. Tributes are paid to him on his death anniversary each April, and his legacy is honored in multiple ways.

But from my perspective as a historian of religion and civil rights, the true radicalism of his thought remains underappreciated. The “civil saint” portrayed nowadays was, by the end of his life, a social and economic radical, who argued forcefully for the necessity of economic justice in the pursuit of racial equality.

Three particular works from 1957 to 1967 illustrate how King’s political thought evolved from a hopeful reformer to a radical critic....By 1967, King’s philosophy emphasized economic justice as essential to equality. And he made clear connections between American violence abroad in Vietnam and American social inequality at home.

Exactly one year before his assassination in Memphis, King stood at one of the best-known pulpits in the nation, at Riverside Church in New York. There, he explained how he had come to connect the struggle for civil rights with the fight for economic justice and the early protests against the Vietnam War.

He proclaimed:“Now it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read ‘Vietnam.’ It can never be saved so long as it destroys the hopes of men the world over.”

He angered crucial allies. King and President Lyndon Johnson, for example, had been allies in achieving significant legislative victories in 1964 and 1965. Johnson’s “Great Society” launched a series of initiatives to address issues of poverty at home. But beginning in 1965, after the Johnson administration increased the number of U.S. troops deployed in Vietnam, King’s vision grew radical.

King continued with a searching analysis of what linked poverty and violence both at home and abroad. While he had spoken out before about the effects of colonialism, he now made the connection unmistakably clear. He said: "I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor in America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in Vietnam.”

King concluded with the famous words on “the fierce urgency of now,” by which he emphasized the immediacy of the connection between economic injustice and racial inequality.

washington post logoWashington Post, Retropolis: The Past, Rediscovered: In 1968, MLK was dead. Cities were burning. Could James Brown keep Boston from erupting, too? Terence McArdle, April 5, 2018 (7:28 min. WGBH video). Brown’s band feared for his safety. But Boston officials begged him to take the stage. James Brown's televised concert in Boston a day after Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination is credited with sparing the city the unrest seen elsewhere.

william pepper stephen henderson detroit ptv 4 6 18 Custom 3

Detroit Public TV / American Black Journal, The Plot To Kill King, Hosted by Stephen Henderson (above with guest), April 6, 2018 (2:43 mins). Who killed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fifty years ago? We'll delve into the decades long belief by some that Dr. King's assassination was the result of a government plot. Stephen talks with William Pepper, the former attorney for the King family and the author of a book detailing the conspiracy theory.

mlk i am a man usda nat civil rights museum memphis

Displays at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN. Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr / WhoWhatWhy

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Revealing the Ploy That Drew MLK to Memphis, William Pepper, April 6, 2018. On February 1, 1968, two underpaid sanitation workers died a gruesome death in Memphis when they were swallowed alive by a poorly maintained garbage packer. In his book, The Plot to Kill King: The Truth Behind the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. William Pepper claims the deaths were not an accident. Instead, he argues, they were part of a ploy to get Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to return to Memphis so he could be murdered.

Pepper believes this alleged plan, which he says was hatched by the Dixie Mafia family of Russell Adkins in coordination with Memphis Director of Police and Fire Frank Holloman, led to the assassination of King 50 years ago this week.

To anybody who only knows King from current history books as a celebrated and revered civil rights leaders, it would seem odd that there were forces high in the US government who wanted to see him dead at the time.

Those who lived during that era of strife, however, know firsthand of the animosity King faced at every turn. His life was in danger every step he took on that long march toward equality in the US. The list of those who wanted to see King dead was probably as long as his accomplishments.

In the end, however, his assassination, like several others of that turbulent decade, was ascribed to a lone gunman, James Earl Ray. But skeptics, including King’s own family and the jurors of a 1999 civil court case in Memphis, have questioned that explanation for five decades. For that narrative may shield a darker, more disturbing truth about King’s assassination — that he threatened a racial and economic power structure that was capable of going to great lengths to silence him.

OpEdNews, The Washington Post's 'Breakthrough' on the MLK Murder, Dr. William F. Pepper and Andrew Kreig, April 7, 2018. For the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s murder, the Washington Post last week overcame its tainted history of softball coverage and published a hard-hitting account quoting the King family's disbelief in the guilt of convicted killer James Earl Ray.

The bold, top-of-the-front-page treatment on April 2 of reporter Tom Jackman's in-depth piece --The Past Rediscovered: Who killed Martin Luther King Jr.? -- represents a major turning point in the treatment of the case for the past five decades by mainstream media. Print, broadcast and all too many film makers and academics have consistently soft-pedalled the ballistic, eye-witness and other evidence that undermines the official story of King's death.

This time, the Post and Jackman, an experienced reporter, undertook bold but long overdue initiative. One can only hope that it leads to similar coverage -- rigorous and fair -- for other history-changing events, including current ones that are inherently secret.

Global Research News Hour, The Plot to Kill Martin Luther King: “We All Knew He [Ray] Was Not the Shooter,” A Conversation with William Pepper on Global Research (Episode 215) Dr. William Pepper and Michael Welch, April 7, 2018.

A single bullet from an assassin’s rifle targeted Martin Luther King the evening of April 4th 1968 while he stood on the third floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. The murder was rightly recognized as a tragedy for the progress of civil rights and anti-racist struggle in the United States.

William Pepper’s account of King’s death, as encompassed in three books, including his latest, The Plot to Kill King: The Truth Behind the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., provides an indispensable resource for those not content with the official story of King’s Murder. Not only does his work lay out more than three decades of diligent research into the assassination, including an under-reported wrongful death civil trial in 1999, it provides a notable case study on how and why high-level conspiracies, involving government entities, carry out crimes and successfully conceal them from the public.

mlk quotation modern societyIn this 50th anniversary commemoration of the death of one of America’s most inspiring crusaders for social and economic justice, the Global Research News Hour is proud to present this exclusive feature-length interview with Dr. William Pepper. A transcript of the entire conversation is available below.

We asked Dr. William Pepper to give us some background on how he came to be associated with Martin King.

William Pepper: I had been a journalist in Vietnam, and when I returned, I published an article in Ramparts Magazine, called The Children of Vietnam, that dealt with American war crimes and some of the reality of the war. He was a subscriber to Ramparts, saw the piece, read the piece, was very distressed by it, and asked to meet with me. So I met him and opened up more files to him, and he was devastated by what his government was doing. I then worked with him that last year of his life, really, for the National Conference for New Politics. He asked me to run that, and we were looking to have a King-Spock ticket which was subverted at a convention on Labor Day weekend in Chicago.

Global Research (GR): You’re talking about Dr. Benjamin Spock.

WP: Yes, it was ….Dr. Benjamin Spock. That was their projection for the ticket.

GR: And, course, the assassination was taking place, took place, on April 4 1968, and this would have been right in the middle of the U.S. primary season.

WP: Yes, it was, it was. And, of course, we didn’t have that third party ticket because the convention with 5,000 delegates was subverted, disrupted by government agents who made it impossible to run this kind of ticket because the attending black caucus, a small part, but a disruptive part, Blackstone Rangers began to introduce anti-semitic resolutions which drove away all of the northern liberal Jewish money, so it cut the legs off from under that potential campaign.

GR: Interesting. Now, when it came to the assassination, you originally accepted the official story that James Earl Ray was the lone killer. He had been in a rooming house across from the motel where King had been staying, or at least he had a room checked out, and that was the official line. He pled guilty in 1969 and was sentenced to 99 years.

GR: At what point did you start to doubt that official take on events?

WP: Well, I began to doubt it when I interrogated Ray for 5 hours in August of ‘78. Abernathy wanted me to do that. He and I and Jim Lawson and a psychiatrist friend of mine attended effectively that interrogation at the Brushy Mountain Penitentiary in August. And it raised a number of issues and number of facts that conflicted with the official story, and so I decided at that point to begin to look into it and see what I could find out for myself.

And that’s really when this 40-year investigation began, following the interrogation of Ray. I would go to see him periodically and give questions and ask questions and try to get more information from him, and he kept asking me to represent him, and I refused to do so until 1988, which was 10 years after I met him, because I had to be certain that he was… we all knew he was not the shooter. That was evident from the interrogation that I conducted in ‘78. But what we didn’t know was what role he might have played in terms of the assassination. It took 10 years for me to be convinced that he was an unknowing patsy.

Consortium News, The Washington Post’s ‘Breakthrough’ on the MLK Murder, William F. Pepper and Andrew Kreig, April 10, 2018. The Washington Post broke with recent corporate media practice by daring to raise questions about who killed Martin Luther King Jr., as William F. Pepper and Andrew Kreig explain.

The bold, top-of-the-front-page treatment on April 2 of reporter Tom Jackman’s in-depth piece —“The Past Rediscovered: Who killed Martin Luther King Jr.?” — represents a major turning point in the treatment of the case for the past five decades by mainstream media. Print, broadcast and all too many film makers and academics have consistently soft-pedaled ballistic, eye-witness and other evidence that undermines the official story of King’s death.

This time, the Post and Jackman, an experienced reporter, undertook bold but long overdue initiative. One can only hope that it leads to similar coverage — rigorous and fair — for other history-changing events, including current ones that are inherently secret.

Global Research, Propaganda, Disinformation and Dirty Tricks: James Earl Ray Was Innocent of the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Gary G. Kohls, April 11, 2018. Dr Kohls is a retired physician from Duluth, MN, USA. He writes a weekly column for the Duluth Reader, the area’s alternative newsweekly magazine.

Many American myths over the past century involve the alleged “lone assassins” who murdered national leaders like President Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. These myths have been successfully perpetuated, thanks to a complicit mainstream media that is afraid to tell any of the many stories that refute the official stories that have been firmly established in the minds of the “rank and file” by powerful anti-democratic entities that include the CIA and the FBI, despite the overwhelming evidence that would prove in any legitimate court of law that those dramatic world-changing assassinations were indeed the result of high-level conspiracies involving deep state think tanks, disinformation campaigns, dirty tricks, death threats, the silencing of whistle-blowers and eye-witnesses, and with the essential help from the deep state-approved mainstream media.

Documentable stories that totally refutes the official stories are often reported by eye-witnesses and reporters on Day One of the dramatic event. But the official cover-ups and revisionism usually only get their start in earnest on Day Two, usually because the Deep State hasn’t gotten their false stories coordinated and “revealed” to the newspapers of record and the major television networks that will then willingly join the cover-up starting on Day Two.)

The most recent egregious example of perpetuating the totally disproven “crazed lone-gunman” assassination myth (therefore making it “not a conspiracy”) occurred the day before the 50th anniversary of MLK’s assassination on April 3, 2018. On that date PBS aired its shameful “The Road to Memphis”, the American Experience documentary that “proved” that James Earl Raywas the assassin that killed Martin Luther King, Jr. As if Joseph Goebbels was behind the Big Lie, none of the facts about the 1999 jury trial that exonerated Ray from all charges of murder were mentioned.

Immediately below is the most concise article that I have found online articulating the established facts that William Pepper has so tirelessly gathered that proved the innocence of James Earl Ray. The article below was written for Global Research by Asad Ismi two years ago (type in ”Asad Ismi” at Global Research). [Global Research, Who Killed Martin Luther King? The Cover-Up of the Century, Asad Ismi, Jan. 19, 2016.]

The truly guilty conspirators who plotted and/or carried out King’s assassination include the Deep State operatives such as the afore-mentioned highly secretive conspiratorial groups such as the CIA, the infamous J Edgar Hoover, Hoover’s equally infamous and very racist FBI at the time, the Pentagon, the US military’s sniper squads, the racist Memphis Police Department, the Mafia, assorted war-profiteers, the mainstream media, and many elected and non-elected officials that exist at every level of government.

Recent Books (Arranged by Author's names)

Goudsouzian, Aram and Charles W. McKinney Jr. (Eds., with 15 other contributors). An Unseen Light: Black Struggles for Freedom in Memphis, Tennessee. University Press of Kentucky, 2018.

marc perrusquia spy in canaan ernest withersKing, Steven. Martin Luther King & JFK: 50th Anniversary 1968 - 2018. CreateSpace, 2018

Nelson, Philip F. Who REALLY Killed Martin Luther King Jr.?: The Case Against Lyndon B. Johnson and J. Edgar Hoover. Skyhorse, 2018.

stuart wexler larry hancock killing kingPerrusquia, Marc. A Spy In Canaan: How the FBI Used a Famous Photographer To Infiltrate the Civil Rights Movement. Melville House, 2018.

Walker, J. Samuel. Most of 14th Steet Is Gone. The Washington Riots of 1968. Oxford University, 2018.

Wexler, Stuart and Larry Hancock. Killing King: Racial Terrorists, James Earl Ray, and the Plot to Assassinate Martin Luther King. Counterpoint, 2018.

Past Background Interviews

Corbett Report, Interview 1272 – William Pepper Reveals Who Really Killed MLK, James Corbett, April 29, 2017. Dr. William Pepper’s remarkable 40 year investigation into the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. is summarized in his equally remarkable book, The Plot to Kill King: The Truth Behind the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. In this conversation we discuss Dr. Pepper’s relationship with Dr. King, the mind-blowing evidence that destroys the official story of the assassination, who really killed MLK, and the complete media blackout that has served to keep this information from the public for half a century.