Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Racial Justice | Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

New Book Looks At Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Dangerous Friendship’

New Book Looks At Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'Dangerous Friendship'

"Dangerous Friendship: Stanley Levison, Martin Luther King Jr., And The Kennedy Brothers"

GUEST:

Ben Kamin, author of "Dangerous Friendship"

Transcript

The civil-rights legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister, was remembered Monday on a day named in his honor. While many of the men who joined him in the movement are well known, one of his closest friends and a trusted adviser is probably someone many haven't heard of before.

In the new book, "Dangerous Friendship: Stanley Levison, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Kennedy Brothers," Encinitas author Ben Kamin explores the special bond formed between King and Levision.

Levison met King after the successful Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott in 1956. But Levison was a one-time member of the Communist Party, and Kamin said that made for a "Dangerous Friendship."

So dangerous that many of Levison's friends told him to not get close to King.

Kamin said Levison's friends told him: "'He's just starting out. This is a great movement. You're going to bring him down.'"

The friendship between the two men led to an FBI investigation of the pair and many accused King of being a Communist.

It "broke up the ability of the Kennedy brothers to support the civil-rights movement before President Kennedy died," Kamin said.

The author used FBI documents, surveillance information and letters in compiling the book. Key to documenting Levison's role in King's life were conversations Kamin had with Clarence Jones. Jones was King's former personal counsel and political adviser. He and Levison wrote drafts of King's speeches.

FEATURED PODCAST

San Diego News Matters podcast branding

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.

Midday Edition banner

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.