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Black Leadership Analysis

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FBI

Solomon Michaux

November 07, 1884 to October 20, 1968

Notable Events

  • Founded the Gospel Spreading is Church of God
  • Hosted gospel radio show “Happiness Hour”
  • Coordinate with FBI to undermine Martin Luther King
  • Erected a monument for Negro Progress
  • Secured federally subsides housing called Mayfair Mansions
  • Credited for song “Happy Am I”
  • Pioneer in television and radio ministry
  • Real Estate Mogul
  • First Preacher to have his own TV show

Solomon Michaux was born in Newport News on November 7, 1884. His father owned a grocery that young Solomon would work in his younger years. Luckily, Solomon inherited his father’s business savvy and in 1906 he was able to land a government contract to supply the local defense department with groceries.

With the success from his early business venture, he was able to move him and his young wife Mary Eliza to Hopewell, VA. There he and a colleague founded Everybody’s Mission in 1917. The mission was affiliated with the Church of Christ which ordained him. Those tent revivals proved Michaux’s ability as an evangelist.

In 1919, Michaux founded the Gospel Spreading Church of God. This stout bible believing church that thought segregation had no place in the house of the lord. In 1929, Michaux and other congregants were arrested for having an integrated church service. After a short stint in jail Michaux was released with more religious zeal than ever. He went on to found seven more churches.

The revivals of the Church of God were mostly integrated. Michaux was one of the most popular preachers in the country. One revival in Berlin, PA was attended by 10,000 white men. The Washington Evening Star referred to him as a national power. He even packed DC’s Major League Baseball Stadium in 1951. So in many ways he was a pioneer in integration of worship.

Michaux’s business acumen was not satisfied with spreading the gospel. He embarked on a massive real estate venture in Virginia in 1936. At its peak, it encompassed 1,100 acres in a farmers co-op. The goal was to create cooperative complex that would have hundreds of five-acre farms black people could buy. It would be a stand-alone municipality with administration buildings, museums, schools, and entertainment. A monument to the Negro’s loyalty to the white man would be at the entrance. The project was never fully successful, but black farmers operated a few of the farms until early 2000.

His prominence as a church founder lead opportunities to spread the “good news” in many different forms. WJSV of Alexandria Va broadcast a gospel show “Happiness Hour” with Michaux as the host. The show was so successful it expanded to 50 CBS affiliates. His ultimate gospel broadcasting was a television show on the DuMont Television Network from 1947 to 1949. It was one of the first broadcasts hosted by a black man.

Michaux’s show was known for the jazzy gospel tunes such as “Happy Am I”. The show was upbeat and designed to improve the mood of a person going through hardship. A person was to serve G-d through being happy no matter what their circumstances.

A patriotic conservative pro-establishment theology undergrided Michaux’s show and preaching style. As a result of the conservative ideology Michaux came to oppose the March on Washington in 1963 and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. He also lauded FBI director J. Edgar Hoover as a soldier of G-d. Martin Luther King was accused of being godless and a Communist stooge. G-d ordained the current order and man should not interfere with the divine order.

The “Happiness Hour” was popular in black America. However, blacks began to sour on Michaux after two public stunts. The first was an open letter 1964 lauding Hoover and demonizing King. In traditional fashion,Michaux defends the current order and those, like Hoover, work to preserve it. In the letter, Michaux praises the FBI’s work to find perpetrators of violence toward blacks and whites. King is characterized as a rabble-rouser causing more harm than good. Most of the black press defended King against Michaux and he began to loose popularity.

The last straw was Michaux’s protest against the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1965. The Baltimore conference was protested by more than 100 Church of G-d members. Black America viewed this protest as largely staged and saw Michaux as a puppet.

Washington, DC owes much of its history to Solomon Michaux. In addition, to owning the “Happy Times” restaurant, he was instrumental in the founding of Mayfair Mansions. This housing development was the only Federally subsidized middle-class housing development in the country. Opening in 1946 , Mayfair Mansions was declared a National Historic Site in 1989.

A stroke claimed Michaux’s life in 1968. Three thousand people attended his funeral. He was loved regionally in the DC area. But nationally he was seen as a sell-out. As the late 1960s made black liberation more militant and conservative preachers were seen as race traitors. Eventually, Michaux faded into obscurity.

Due to a freedom of information act request in 2017, it was discovered that Michaux was part of a FBI program to influence clergy. The landmark work of Lerone Martin was first published in Religion and Politics Fit for Polite Company and Religion and American Culture details Michaux’s role in the FBI plot. The story was also reported in the New York Times and Kolumn Magazine. These articles brought Michaux’s name back from obscurity.

The FBI realized religion is an important tool in social justice. Therefore, those that promoted a theology that supported the status quo needed to be promoted. The Bureau commission clergymen of many faiths and races to promote a conservative political agenda. Solomon Michaux was one of those pastors. His ability at evangelizing through television and radio made him a stand-out. His blackness validated the conservative theology in a way a white pastor could not. The fact a black man agreed that no social movement or change is needed meant that his life and social circle nobody was suffering.

Now it is important to realize Michaux actually was a conservative Christian. His theology before he began working for the bureau in 1939 was also conservative. He believed the Bible did not sanction segregation or discrimination. However, the black man as a group does exist at a lower state. Slavery was one mechanism to civilize black people and bring them up to par with with whites. Segregation and current discrimination was just part of that process. Because Michaux had this philosophy the Bureau recruited him for collaboration.

In Michaux’s theology, the races will only integrate with Jesus comes into the heart of all individuals. The primary unit of social change is the individual. So any attempts to force change on people was outside the will of G-d. All movements for social change including the Civil Rights Movement could only be led by godless communist.

Analysis

To call Michaux a sell-out or Uncle Tom would be too easy. In Spiral Dynamics terminology, he is a Blue Meme Upper Left Reductionist. He sees the entire problem of segregation stemming from individual moral failings. King took a four quadrants approach. Upper Left represented by his spiritual growth. Upper Right represented by Nonviolent Direct Action. Lower Left represented by the foundations and philosophy of the various organizations started by King. The Lower Left represented by the left-wing policies he pursued.

Another difference between King and Michaux was what they believed caused the present racial hierarchy. King believed the present racial hierarchy was the result of the “fall of man”. Michaux saw it as a result of G-d’s divine providence. So both men saw integration as an positive end, but Michaux believed the current situation was needed to develop black people.

Key Take-Aways

Christianity like all other religions is neutral in the fight for social justice. What makes a religion a force in the fight is the way it is interpreted. Giving spiritual leaders a proper political education and political leaders a proper spiritual education is key in proper leadership. The two fields can’t be separated. The general public must understand how all these elements factor into their ability to obtain freedom.

Sources

  1. https://www.thechurchofgodatwilliamsburg.org/eldermichaux.htm
  2. https://www.encyclopedia.com/african-american-focus/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/michaux-solomon-lightfoot
  3. https://blackpast.org/aah/michaux-elder-solomon-lightfoot-c-1885-1968
  4. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/02/us/black-evangelist-elder-michaux-opposed-dr-king.html
  5. https://religionandpolitics.org/2018/04/03/new-documents-reveal-how-the-fbi-deployed-a-televangelist-to-discredit-martin-luther-king/
  6. http://www.kolumnmagazine.com/2018/04/05/black-evangelist-opposed-dr-king-new-york-times/
  7. “Bereau Clergyman: How the FBI Colluded with and African American Televangelist to Destroy Martin Luther King” by Lerone Martin Religion and American Culture Winter 2018 Cambridge University Press
  8. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/mlks-speech-attracted-fbis-intense-attention/2013/08/27/31c8ebd4-0f60-11e3-8cdd-bcdc09410972_story.html?utm_term=.667499fc9dde

The Government Surveillance of MLK

The Soviet Revolution of 1918 put Capitalist all over the world on notice. The idea of the poor banding together to overthrow the rich was terrifying to the world establishment. In America, the group most likely to foment that type of rebellion was African Americans. Army Intelligence began an extensive investigation of all black liberation organization.

Black people had been organizing for civil rights since the Civil War. After Reconstruction there were numerous efforts to retain and expand voting rights, education access, and employment opportunities. Army Intelligence began surveying these efforts for Communist influence in 1917.

The first member of Dr. King’s family with an FBI file was Reverend A.D. Williams, King’s maternal grandfather. He was pastor at Ebeneezer Baptist Church, which was known as an institute of agitation in the Atlanta area. Williams was the first president of the Atlanta NAACP. Martin Luther King Sr. inherited both the government surveillance and the pastor-ship in 1931. Scrutiny was increased by the government as Daddy King became involved with the National Negro Congress (NNC). At the time the government believed the NNC was working with the Soviets to overthrow the government and build a black ethno-state.

Army Intelligence began a file of Martin Luther King Jr in 1947 during his freshman year in college. King Jr was involved in the intercollegiate council and one of the facility liaison’s was a suspected communist.

One of Dr. King’s early connections to the Communist movement was Stanley Levison. It was true that Levison was connected to the communist party early on but broke all ties in 1957 before he met King. Many members of the American Communist party left once that saw the atrocities committed by the Soviet Union. Levison did help secure funds for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) through other former Communists.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation had an independent effort to investigate Communist in the black liberation movement. J. Edgar Hoover made his personal feelings know on the black liberation movement known in a 1958 Congressional testimony. He believed the Civil Rights Movement was a ploy to allow Communists to infiltrate and take over America. As the work of Lerone Martin shows, the Bureau had a coordinated effort to implant conservative pastors in white and black churches that support the status quo. They also kept a close eye of revolutionary pastor such as Dr. King.

In 1962, an FBI investigation was done to determine if Dr. King and other Civil Rights Leaders had contact with communist. The investigation proved that the Civil Rights Movement had not been infiltrated. In fact, the movement was too religious to be influenced by atheists.

Later in the same year King criticize the FBI, calling them a tool of White Supremacy. He went even further in saying that a segregationist couldn’t investigate an integration movement in impartial manner. Hoover responded by calling King a Communist in from of the National Women’s Press Club. This personal feud between Hoover and King will last the rest of King’s life. The FBI’s investigation and sabotage of King was fueled by personal vengeance, not any provable ties to the Communist Party.

The next associate King was affiliated with that was said to have communist ties was Stokley Carmichael. Carmichael was a chairman in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was know for criticizing King’s stands on non-violence. The intelligence community alleged that Carmichael was working with the Organization of Latin American Solidarity (OLAS), which was training black guerrillas in Cuba.

King was very clear on his feelings about Stokley Carmichael. Both men believed in stopping interventionist wars and advancing Civil Rights. Carmichael never advocated racism or direct violence in front of Dr. King. King also did not view Carmichael’s position on black separation as racist. He understood Carmichael’s position did not come from the belief that whites were inferior but frustration in the advancement of a movement. Essentially, Carmichael did not want to be surrounded by people that meant him harm. So violence would only be part of Carmichael’s movement if white infringed on black self-determination. King made clear he would not advocate for violence under any circumstance.

Excerpts from conversations that were recorded by Army Intelligence that were published in a 1993 article by the Memphis Commercial Appeal show King advocated for non-violence when talking to Carmichael. King was steadfast in the position that the black man had a place in America and the destiny of all Americans was tied together. So again Martin Luther King showed no ill will toward the government.

The FBI went on a smear campaign of King led by Solomon Michaux. FBI henchmen would attack King’s credentials as a clergyman. Rumors began that King was not only adulterous, but a sex addict. Other henchmen claimed King only used the position as preacher for political advantage. The most sinister act in this campaign was sending king an “anonymous” bundle of tapes with a letter. The tapes were audio of someone having sex. The letter stated that these tapes would be pegged to Dr. King to destroy his name if he did not leave the spotlight or commit suicide.

King made two attempts to squelch the animosity between him and Hoover. In 1964, the men met to personally discuss the Civil Rights Movement. Hoover flew into a rage and went on an hour long diatribe attacking King. In 1965, King sent a delegation of pastors to make the case that King and the SCLC did not have communist ties. Hoover and the rest of the Bureau denied any crusade to sabotage or discredit King.

Many throughout the years have speculated that King was assassinated by government force or James Earl Ray did not act alone. The first investigation to absolve the Memphis police Department was 1977. It was followed by the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1979. The most prominent investigator is Dr. William Pepper. Dr. Pepper was the man that aided in King coming to his anti-war Vietnam stance. Also, Pepper got King involved with the National Conference for new Politics. To date, Dr. Pepper has written three books on the governments role in the King assassination.

In 1999, a Civil lawsuits was levied against Loyd Jowers. Jowers was a cook in the restaurant below the boarding house Ray stayed at and allegedly fired the fatal shot. This trial concluded Jowers and a host of government agencies conspired to kill King

The Department of Justice conducted a counter investigation in 2000 to debunk the results of the Jowers trial. The summary of the investigation can be found online and in the “Source” links below. Ultimately, they dismiss evidence in the trial as hear-say evidence and point to inconsistencies in the testimonies since the time of King’s death. The report never denies the FBI surveiled King and his family or conducted a defamation campaign. The report denies direct government involvement in King’s death set in motion by Hoover or Johnson. Most people that study the investigation find it odd that King was killed one year to the day of his famous anti-war Riverside Church speech. The report from the year 2000 came to the same conclusions as government investigations in 1977 and 1979, that James Earl Ray was the lone shooter.

Sources

  1. “Army Feared King Secretly Watched Him” by S Tompkins Memphis Commercial Appeal 3-21-1993 HERE
  2. Bureau Clergyman: How the FBI Colluded with an African American Televangelist to Destroy Dr. Martin Luther King Jr by L. Martin Religion and American Culture 2018
  3. “New Book Looks at Martin Luther King Jr’s Dangerous Friendship” on KPBS News uploaded 01-15-2015 This is an interview with author Ben Kain
  4. “King’s New York Connection: MLK Jr’s Friendship with Stanley Levison”by M Schuerman http://www.wnyc.org
  5. “Stanley David Levison” http://www.kinginstitute.stanford.edu
  6. “Martin Luther King’s Dangerous Friendship” by B. Kamin http://www.foward.com/culture
  7. “The FBI and Martin Luther King” by D. Garrow http://www.theatlantic.com
  8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVZscDBP2XE
  9. June 2000 Investigation of the Recent Allegations Regarding the Assissination of Dr. Martin Luther King HERE
  10. National Archives Record of 1979 House Select Committee on Assissinations HERE

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