David J. Garrow is one of the most accomplished biographers for civil rights leaders. However, he appears to have an ax to grind with the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In a recent report, Garrow claimed Dr. King had affairs with dozens of women and even willingly watched a friend rape a woman.
All of this comes from secret FBI recordings of King, which are sealed in the U.S. National Archives until 2027. The tapes were allegedly recorded from 1955 to his assassination in 1968.
Garrow wrote about the recordings in an eight-page essay for Standing Point, a British website. However, Garrow said he hasn’t listened to the recordings, only read summaries.
“Garrow acknowledges that he has not listened to them or viewed transcripts,” the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported. “But he argues the new documents pose ‘so fundamental a challenge to [King’s] historical stature as to require the most complete and extensive historical review possible.'”
Garrow recently revealed why he wanted to be first in line to try to sully King’s untarnished reputation.
“I have been the King guy for 40 years and I wrote a book on exactly this 38 years ago — the FBI and Martin Luther King Jr. I felt a complete obligation to confront this stuff. I did not feel I had a choice,” Garrow told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an article published Thursday. “I have always felt spiritually informed by King and yes, this changed it. I have not heard his voice much the past year.”
Historians were already challenging Garrow’s claims, especially the most extreme accusation — that King saw a friend rape a woman, an allegation that was supposedly from a handwritten note by an unknown person in one of the summaries.
“I would question the veracity of an anonymous, handwritten note on an FBI report,” Yale historian Glenda Gilmore said while explaining that files like these have “a great deal of speculation, interpolation from snippets of facts, and outright errors.”
Nathan Connolly, a historian at Johns Hopkins University who has also examined FBI files, said, “I would be deeply suspicious. That [the allegations] can just be put out there by a historian as if it happened is obviously the height of being archivally irresponsible.”
It’s time to let Dr. King and his legacy rest in peace.