AP Talks MLK's Forgotten 'Complexity' Forgets his Plagiarism & Communist Ties

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Ronny Koch

Jan 23, 2022, 8:55:02 PM1/23/22
On the national holiday that celebrates the birth of famed civil
rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., the AP decided to
remind us all that there was more to King than the popularized
view of him affords. AP says that it is a shame that King has
been "frozen in a moment in time that ignores the full
complexity of the man and his message." Who can disagree with
this? After all, very often notable historical figures end up
being turned into cardboard cartoons known for that one "frozen
moment" in history that made them famous.

But, even as the AP argues that we should learn more about the
whole of MLK's life and take a more measured look at his life
and works, the AP itself whitewashes several aspects of his real
life. AP never mentions, for instance, his ties with communists
nor do they mention Dr. King plagarized parts of his doctoral
thesis. They don't mention his distrust of capitalism nor his
support of the concept of special treatment and quotas, an idea
that strays from his acclaimed position of "equal" treatment.
So, the AP may want us to avoid putting Dr. King "on a pedestal
of perfection," but it is also a fact that they only want us to
know some of King's real record instead of all of it as they

The AP has taken the occasion of King's holiday celebration to
remind us all that the eeevil government was wary of him toward
the end of his life, to tell us that "by taking on issues
outside segregation, he had lost the support of many newspapers
and magazines, and his relationship with the White House had

Yes, it is definitely true that King was not the universally
loved character that he has been mythologized as today. And, we
really should take the time to learn more about our famous
American historical figures, just as the AP advises us to do.
So, let's look a bit at some of King's warts to balance the
gauzy portrait we are used to seeing.

Now let us be clear right off the top, here. King's whole record
-- even that with which many of us will thoroughly disagree --
does not detract from the salient fact that he was a seminal
leader in bringing the U.S. out of its racial oppression. His
leadership was transformational for shining the light of liberty
upon a segment of the country that was held back by ignorant
custom and racial hatred. But, just as the AP urges, his whole
life's record really should be known so that we can take a full
measure of the man.

Let us start with the fact that Dr. King plagiarized parts of
his doctoral dissertation from Boston University. As reported in
1991, a Boston University investigation concluded that King had
plagiarized much of his dissertation. "King included in his
dissertation a good deal of material taken verbatim from a
variety of other sources without proper attribution (or any
attribution at all), an act which constitutes plagiarism by any
reasonable academic standard."

The University decided not to revoke his degree. After all, his
iconic status would have made a target of the school by King's
followers and the effort to reveal the truth and take measures
that might have been leveled at any other student who had been
so fraudulent in their dissertation would be troublesome at
best. It was just easier for the university to forget the whole

Obviously, Boston University wasn't too interested in the AP's
advice to celebrate King's "complexity." And who can blame them?

King was also under surveillance by the FBI because he
surrounded himself with known and vocal members of the Communist
Party of the US. Several close King associates were openly
communists. Stanley Levinson, Jack O’Dell, and Bayard Rustin
(who stayed in close communication with Benjamin Davis) were all
communists or past party members. King also frequently spoke
before the National Lawyers Guild and Lawyers for Democratic
Action, both of which were directly and openly tied to the
Communist Party. He also attended seminars put on by the
Highlander Folk School, another organization with Communist ties.

I will point out, though, that King himself was never
successfully identified as a member of the communist party and
he did denounce the Soviets early in his civil rights career, so
to say King himself was an outright communist is a step too far
to take. However, it is true that his cures for the past ill
treatment of black Americans was increasingly leading down the
road to socialist ideals.

For instance, King was not a capitalist, free marketeer and he
had drifted toward racial quotas as he neared his final years of
activism. In a 1968 Playboy interview, King said,"If a city has
a 30% Negro population, then it is logical to assume that
Negroes should have at least 30% of the jobs in any particular
company, and jobs in all categories rather than only in menial
areas." So, quotas was the remedy as far as Dr. King was
concerned. His was an ideology of democratic socialism not "the
American way."

So, in conclusion, let me say that I agree with the AP that we
should learn more about the lives, writings and ideas of our
historical figures, including Martin Luther King, Jr. But, I
should rather think that the AP would want to reveal the whole
man, warts and all, and not to further white wash his life if
they really wanted to follow their own advice.

Clearly they don't, however.


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