Withers: Conversant With - And Informing On - The Negro Community
Withers' iconic image of the 1968 march led by Martin
Luther King during the sanitation workers’ strike.
Withers - the so-called
"original civil rights photographer" who as a black insider covered the
Emmett Till murder, the Little Rock school crisis and
the 1968 sanitation strike that brought Martin Luther King to Memphis
and his death - was in fact a prolific informer for the FBI, a two-year
investigation by Memphis' Commercial Appeal has found. The paper studied
FBI reports that praised Withers, who died in 2007 at age 85, as "most
conversant with all key activities in the Negro community.''
"It is an amazing betrayal," said Athan Theoharis, a historian at Marquette University. "It really speaks to the degree
that the F.B.I. was able to engage individuals within the civil rights
movement. This man was so well-trusted."