Why Hoover waged war on the civil rights icon


We are reminded in “MLK/FBI,” Sam Pollard’s gripping new documentary (in theaters and available as video on demand Friday as video on demand), that for a time many Americans thought of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover as the good guy and saw Martin Luther King Jr. as the villain.

Of course, Hoover, marshaling all the powers of his position and a lot of powers beyond it, had a lot to do with that. Which is also a reminder that assumed privilege has been around forever – that for so many people then and now the “American way” translates to “the white American male way” and those white American men will do anything to preserve it.

Pollard, working with a wealth of archival footage, surveillance reports, FBI files and interviews, lays out plainly the war Hoover and the FBI waged against King, as his influence as a leader of the civil right movement grew. And war isn’t an exaggeration.

Review: Regina King’s vibrant ‘One Night in Miami’ is a profound look at four iconic friends

10 must-see movies heading to streaming in 2021: From ‘One Night in Miami’ to ‘Coming 2 America’

King at this point is such an icon that it’s hard to think of him as anything but. We know the famous lines from the famous speeches. Here we see some of that, too, but we also see him as a person – a flawed person, no question, with Hoover working tirelessly to make those flaws public.

If the film did nothing more than humanize King, as in an interview with Merv Griffin where he lightens up a bit, it would be interesting. In fact, “MLK/FBI” could use more of that. But that’s not what Pollard is after; clips like that are tangential to its mission.




Leave a comment