Ernest Withers Informed on Martin Luther King to FBI

Famed civil rights photographer a spy
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 14, 2010 10:11 AM CDT
Civil rights photojournalist Ernest C. Withers speaks during a presentation of images from his 70-year career, at a special award ceremony at Parsons School of Design in New York, Feb. 14, 2005.   (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

(Newser) – Ernest Withers, the famed “original civil rights photographer” and close confidant of Martin Luther King, was secretly a paid FBI informant, cluing the government in on all the Civil Rights Movement’s activities, according to a two-year investigation from the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Withers tailed King for the feds the very day before his assassination, telling the FBI about a meeting he had with suspected black militants.

Withers, who died in 2007, was a so-called “racial informant” from 1968 until at least 1970, with one FBI report marveling that he was “most conversant with all the key activities in the Negro community.” His reports provided details on everything from budding militant groups to local churches supporting the movement. “It’s an amazing betrayal,” one historian tells the New York Times. “This man was so well trusted.”

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(Read more Ernest Withers stories.)

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