Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ernest Withers: Man Next to Martin Luther King Allegedly Spied for the FBI

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 


If you don't know the name Ernest Withers, I can guarantee that you know of his work. Remember the famous and horrible picture of Emmett Till? Withers took that one. Think about nearly every well-known picture of Dr. King you think of. Well, Withers probably took that one too.

Ernest Withers had access to Civil Rights leaders like no other. He was also found to have been an informant for the FBI.

The Commercial Appeal in Memphis conducted a two-year investigation into the life of Withers, who died in 2007. The investigation found that Withers allegedly worked with two F.B.I. agents to keep an eye on the Civil Rights Movement. Withers was known to have been very close to Dr. King and to have had his trust.

"It is an amazing betrayal," said Athan Theoharis, an historian, told the New York Times. "It really speaks to the degree that the F.B.I. was able to engage individuals within the civil rights movement. This man was so well trusted."


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