No, the Rev. Dr. King was not a communist, however, he did business with communists and was influenced by them. While this is a delicate subject to broach, especially given the martyrdom and lionization of Dr. King to virtual sainthood status, the subject must nevertheless be broached for a better understanding of some of the darker forces that infiltrated and sabotaged an organically pro American, conservative, and Christian civil rights movement.
Martin Luther King surrounded himself with communists from the beginning of his career. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, formed in 1957 and led by Dr. King, also had as its vice president Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth who was at the same time president of the Southern Conference Education Fund, an identified communist front according to the Legislative Committee on un-American Activities, Louisiana (Report April 13, 1964 pp. 31-38). The field director of SCEF was Carl Braden, a known communist agitator who also sponsored the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, which counted as a member Lee Harvey Oswald, the communist assassin of President Kennedy. Dr. King maintained correspondence with Carl Braden. Also on the board of SCLC was Bayard Rustin, a known communist.
In 1957, Dr. King addressed the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tenn. which was originally called Commonwealth College until it was sited by the House Committee on un-American Activities as being a communist front (April 27, 1949). The committee found that Commonwealth, later the Highlander Folk School, was using religion as a way to infiltrate the African-American community by, among other techniques, comparing the texts of the New Testament to those of Karl Marx. Dr. King knew many of the known communists associated with the Highlander school.
In 1960, Dr. King hired Hunter Pitts O'Dell, a communist official to work at SCLC. According to the St. Louis Globe Democrat (Oct. 26, 1962) "A Communist has infiltrated the top administrative post in the Rev. Martin Luther King's SCLC. He is Jack H. O'Dell, acting executive director of conference activities in the southeastern states including Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana." Dr. King fired O'Dell when this information emerged but rehired him as head of the SCLC New York office.
Dr. King was praised by communists and promoted by fellow travelers. Communist official Benjamin J. Davis, in the Worker (Nov. 10, 1963) describes Dr. King as "a brilliant and practical leader who articulates the philosophy of the Negro people, for direct non-violent mass action." The Worker article goes on to describe Dr. King as "The foremost advocate of the solution of social problems through nonviolent methods of mass action."
In his own words, Martin Luther King expresses a communist outlook in his book "Stride Toward Freedom" He states that "in spite of the shortcomings of his analysis, Marx had raised some basic questions. I was deeply concerned from my early teen days about the gulf between superfluous wealth and abject poverty, and my reading of Marx made me even more conscious of this gulf. Although modern American capitalism has greatly reduced the gap through social reforms, there was still need for a better distribution of wealth. Moreover, Marx had revealed the danger of the profit motive as the sole basis of an economic system…"
It's strikes me as sad that Dr. King, the most influential leader of the civil rights movement wasn't an advocate of the capitalism that was already leading to such great economic strides amongst African-Americans in his day. By advocating a "better distribution of wealth" he meant state control over the economy. He sneered at "the profit motive" without explaining why African-Americans shouldn't seek to profit to the best of their ability. These ideas would later on open the floodgates to radical African-American leaders such as Stokley Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, the Black Panthers, and the burning and looting of African-American neighborhoods, the institutionalizing of welfare programs, the perpetuation of poverty, the destruction of the African-American family, drugs, violence, racism, and crime.
In "Stride Toward Freedom" Dr. King states that "In short, I read Marx as I read all of the influential historical thinkers – from a dialectical point of view, combining a partial yea and a partial no…My readings of Marx convinced me that truth is found neither in Marxism nor in traditional capitalism. Each represents a partial truth. Historically capitalism failed to see truth in collective enterprise and Marxism failed to see the truth in individual enterprise…The Kingdom of G-d is neither the thesis of individual enterprise nor the antithesis of collective enterprise, but a synthesis which reconciles the truths of both."
By stating that he views things "from a dialectical point of view" Dr. King is thinking like communists such as Marx, Lenin, or Stalin. The dialectic always and can only lead to authoritarianism. Man cannot, for example, be half free and half slave, either he is free or he is a slave. Dr. King's imperious stand toward his own people would stand in contrast to an advocacy of genuine freedom, the development of self-rule, self-sufficiency, private ownership, and the accumulation of capital resulting from achievement. Dr. King was not advocating the American system of free market capitalism. Instead, he stood for a system that has stunted the growth of African-Americans as well as the rest of us.
Much remains to be said regarding the communist infiltration of the civil rights movement as a whole. The communists sought to use African-Americans as cannon fodder in their revolution by stoking hatred and racial division. Much blood and suffering is on the hands of these communist agitators. The story of how the left-wing predominantly white establishment promoted communists in the African-American community as a means of continuing an informal system of oppression also cries out to be told