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Did Memphis Police & FBI Set Up MLK?

January 21, 2019

Probing the MLK Assassination 
through two iconic pictures 

by Henry Makow PhD

Monday is Martin Luther King Day, commemorating the civil rights leader who was assassinated April 4, 1968. 

When I saw this picture, I wondered who had lured MLK on to the balcony where he was a sitting duck? Was it a photographer? A little investigation revealed that this picture of King surrounded by (l to r) Hosea Williams, Jesse Jackson and Ralph Abernathy was taken April 3, the day before his murder.  Also, this was not "a balcony" but the front entrance to the Lorraine Motel rooms. 
King originally had a ground floor room. "I don't know that it makes any difference now, but that room downstairs in the corner had originally been his room," his associate Andrew Young recalled

"And the Memphis Police asked the hotel manager could they move him upstairs because they thought they could protect him better upstairs than on the ground floor. Nobody was complaining or anything, but he couldn't have been shot in that downstairs room."

"The police were all over on the other street and they were running toward us with their guns drawn and we were saying, 'The shot came from over there,'" Young recalled. "Instead of going to where the shot came from, they were coming to see about us."

[Reader FS writes: So, what's wrong, Henry, with the photo of the scene of the M.L.K. "shooting" at the head of your article?  Well, according to Miles Mathis (, the people standing/posing in unison in formation over the body of the fallen M.L.K. in a pool of blood on the hotel balcony and pointing in the direction of where the shots supposedly came from, also shows people milling around in the parking lot just below, completely unfazed by the bloody violent shooting death of the return of Christ and not even looking in the direction of the shots where all those fingers were pointed just above their heads -- -- among other things, of course.]

After the shooting, the police would not let anyone leave the Lorraine. Clara Ester, the black girl in the foreground, was furious; they should be looking for whoever shot King, not quizzing them. "Why are y'all questioning us?'' she demanded of one white officer. "We didn't do it. Y'all did it!''

Unknown to her, Clara was photographed standing next to James Orange by Joseph Louw, who was doing a documentary on MLK for the precursor of PBS. The iconic picture of witnesses pointing in the direction of the shooter is sometimes attributed to Ernest Withers, a prominent civil rights movement photographer.

Withers had been at his Beale Street studio when he heard King was shot. He ran to the Lorraine, where he met Louw and took him back to his darkroom to develop his film before returning to the Lorraine.

Over the next few days, rioting erupted in dozens of cities. Now, federal officials pressured the city of Memphis to settle the sanitation workers strike which had brought King to Memphis. On April 16, the strike ended with the recognition of the workers' union and wage increases.


But, unknown to Dr King and other civil rights leaders, Ernest Withers was also passing photographs of them, their biographical details, summaries of their political beliefs, and even their car licence plate numbers to the government.

"He informed on pastors and political candidates and alerted the FBI to planned demonstrations. Some of his information helped to disrupt a Memphis militant group called The Invaders in the late 1960s.


The tip-offs were so detailed they included information on a teacher who had lent a car to a suspected militant, and how cigarettes were being brought to activists in jail. He even provided pictures of priests who were suspected of supporting striking black workers.

The day before Dr King's death Withers had been taking photographs of him, but he had also been telling the FBI about a meeting of suspected black militants.

The photographer was also at Dr King's funeral where he discovered information, passed on to the FBI, that two men blamed for a previous riot were planning a return to Memphis.

Withers' FBI role was revealed by a two-year investigation by Memphis newspaper The Commercial Appeal, who obtained some of his files under the Freedom of Information Act...

Historians of the civil rights movement described the unmasking of Withers as a shocking betrayal and an illustration of how far J Edgar Hoover's FBI was prepared to go to infiltrate it.

Withers, a former police officer, who also served in the Pacific in the Second World War, passed his tip-offs to two agents called Howell Lowe and William H Lawrence. He had eight children and there was speculation that his motives were financial.

Ethan Theoharis, a historian at Marquette University, Wisconsin, and author of a book on the FBI said: 'It is an amazing betrayal. It really speaks to the degree that the FBI was able to engage individuals within the civil rights movement. This man was so well trusted.'"


"Joseph Louw had his iconic photo published in LIFE magazine. It was the seminal image of the tragedy, and his future seemed assured. But a year later, he moved back to Africa, where few people realized he'd shot the Lorraine photo. And he didn't tell them. 

Louw (left) was travelling with King for a public television documentary. He had fled to the USA from his native South Africa in 1963. Under that nation's apartheid system, he was classified as ''coloured" -- mixed white and black -- and charged with having (consensual) sex with a white woman.

Those who knew him speculate about why he left America to practice journalism (first in Kenya, later in South Africa). John Ankele, an American friend, says Louw keenly felt the loss of hope that King's death symbolized, "so he went back to what he knew.''

Louw understood what he was leaving. Years later, his son Jacob found an invitation to the White House from 1968. "He laughed," Jacob recalls. "He said, 'Yeah, It was a big deal.' "

After the Lorraine, "he didn't ride the train" of celebrity journalism, Jacob says. "He felt there were other stories to tell ... African stories."

Louw's greatest satisfaction in Africa came from farming. He brought in three harvests before he died of cancer in 2003 at 64. U.S. newspapers and websites didn't carry his obituary.


I was 18 in 1968 and remember crying alone in my room when I heard about MLK's assassination. I had helped organize a mass demonstration in Ottawa in favor of Negro Civil Rights. I was a cookie cutter liberal.  I didn't know that King had been a Communist pawn but was breaking away from his handlers. His opposition to the Vietnam war threatened to mobilize blacks who were already resorting to violence and terrorism.
The information above adds to my conviction that like the assassination of JFK in 1963, and his brother on June 6, 1968, these were Deep State hit jobs.

---------------Russ Winter - More Government Agents at the Scene 


Scruples - the game of moral dillemas

Comments for "Did Memphis Police & FBI Set Up MLK? "

JG said (January 21, 2019):

don't believe MLK was a "hater" and this is what distinguishes him from a lot of other black leaders in the past and present.

Unfortunately for Martin, he found out the hard way that you can't wear the hat of a communist activist and be a proclaimed Reverend at the same time. Communism and Christianity are opposed to each other in doctrine and belief. Communism advocates government and man to bring them their salvation. Christianity advocates salvation through Jesus Christ and his Word.
The civil rights movement didn't solve the ills of the black community. Equality rights and endless racial quotas didn't bring about equal abilities and behavoir. As a result a lot of things didn't change for many blacks and the black community as a whole.

The civil rights movement deceived many into believing that it was somehow a construct of God. Maybe this is why the MSM gave MLK the spotlight that they did.

Thomas A said (January 21, 2019):

Years ago, a liberal friend of mine told me that the best thing to ever happen to King was his assassination. If he had lived much longer, people would come to realize that he was really a scum bag. As a result of his assassination, King was deified and replaced Jesus as the central religious figure in the US. Proof: If someone says anything less than complimentary about King, he risks ostracism, lost of employment, and worse. If someone blasphemes Jesus, he receives accolades.

Don said (January 21, 2019):

Henry, I have no doubt this is true. However, I believe MLK was a communist.
The question for me is what would he have brought if he wasn't assassinated?
I'm not racist. However, it appears that crime and antisocial behaviour is
more prevalent among those people least endowed intellectually. I fully
endorse any programs that allow highly educated persons to live and work in
the USA.

I enjoyed watching the video about what Japanese women think of Caucasian
men. I admire and respect Japan. We should have made the decision to bring
Japan into the USA as a territory and allowed them the freedom to live and work
in the USA. Japanese Americans have almost zero problems in society. The
children of Japanese / Caucasian marriages are high functioning often
superior individuals.

BTW - I have 3 Japanese cars.

Henry Makow received his Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Toronto in 1982. He welcomes your comments at