There have long been rumors that civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., who was married to Coretta Scott King, had extramarital affairs. These types of rumors were supposedly captured on secret FBI recordings of King.
Biographer David Garrow, a Pulitzer prize-winning author and biographer, claimed in 2019 that he was privy to the content of the tapes and that Dr. King had at least 40 affairs. The tapes, however, are being held in a vault at the U.S. National Archives and are not due for release until 2027, The Daily Mail reported. Garrow won a Pulitzer Prize for his 1987 book, “Bearing the Cross” about the Baptist minister and activist who led the civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968.
Still, many have picked up on these rumors such as radical feminist Rutgers University professor Dr. Brittney Cooper, who recently talked about these alleged affairs.
Dr. Cooper teaches in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department. She is also an author, activist, and cultural critic. Her areas of research and work include Black women organizations, Black women intellectuals, and hip-hop feminism. Cooper is co-editor of “The Crunk Feminist Collection” — essays on intersectionality, African American culture, patriarchy, misogyny, anti-Blackness and hip-hop feminism. Her books include “Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women” and “Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower.”
“The fact that King heard and valued women as preachers… is, I think, a contribution of his to the legacy of feminist activism,” Dr. Cooper said in an interview with Marc Lamont Hill on Black News Channel on Jan 17.
“He is not one note. In many aspects of his life he is incredibly complicated,” Dr. Cooper added. “At the same time, look, we know that King was a ladies man. He was a womanizer.”
Cooper continued, “As a feminist I do I think it is really important to say it’s not just enough for you to say the right things in public, in pulpit. Your feminist politics…is how you treat women when the world is not watching, how you treat them in these private and intimate spaces. Was he an excellent partner for the beloved Coretta Scott King? Probably not. He had the ladies. He was a ladies’ man.”
Black America responded on Twitter.
“You all up in Dr. King’s sheets & private affairs, like the US GOV & J Edgar Hoover, before he was murdered. Why gossip now on what he did or didn’t do? His work, sincerity, & character will stand the test of time. Side pieces or no side pieces,” tweeted The Moguldom Nation CEO Jamarlin Martin.
Some argued that one’s private life is private.
“I don’t think a cheating rumor being discredited by a wife hits the way you think it does But more importantly what MLK did/didn’t do with his penis is NONE of our business is is mutually exclusive from his civil rights activism He doesn’t need to be infallible to have impact,” tweeted STILL Cuter In Person @TheTHEHollywood.
“Imagine sacrificing your life for your people just for the beneficiaries to come back 70 years after your death to say your legacy is complicated because of assumptions of your character based on rumors on your love life…,” tweeted Tierney Sheree @AfrikanEsq.
Others questioned the validity of FBI rumors that King had affairs.
“This story about MLK having affairs with white women was started by J. Edgar Hoover in 1964 and repeated in a book by Ralph Abernathy, both of which have no evidence beyond hearsay and were discredited by Coretta herself. It’s false. We have GOTTA get new people to speak for us,” tweeted journalist Torraine Walker, founder of Context Media Group.
Still others supported Dr. Cooper’s right to discuss the alleged affairs.
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Dr. Cooper appeared on a September 2021 interview with writer Michael Harriot of the online magazine The Root to discuss critical race theory (CRT) and recent attempts to oppose it being taught in elementary and high schools.
She called for “honest conversations.”
“White people are committed to being villains,” Dr. Cooper said. “We gotta take these motherfuckers out.”
Photo: In this March 22, 1956, file photo, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is welcomed with a kiss by his wife Coretta after leaving court in Montgomery, Ala. King was found guilty of conspiracy to boycott city buses in a campaign to desegregate the bus system. (AP Photo/Gene Herrick, File)