Stanley Levison, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Kennedy Brothers
Published by: Michigan State University Press
Imprint: Michigan State University Press
Sales Date: 2014-04-01
The product of long-concealed FBI surveillance documents, Dangerous Friendship chronicles a history of Martin Luther King Jr. that the government kept secret from the public for years. The book reveals the story of Stanley Levison, a well-known figure in the Communist Party–USA, who became one of King’s closest friends and, effectively, his most trusted adviser. Levison, a Jewish attorney and businessman, became King’s pro bono ghostwriter, accountant, fundraiser, and legal adviser. This friendship, however, created many complications for both men. Because of Levison’s former ties to the Communist Party, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover launched an obsessive campaign, wiretapping, tracking, and photographing Levison relentlessly. By association, King was labeled as “a Communist and subversive,” prompting then–attorney general Robert F. Kennedy to authorize secret surveillance of the civil rights leader. It was this effort that revealed King’s sexual philandering and furthered a breakdown of trust between King, Robert F. Kennedy, and eventually President John F. Kennedy. With stunning revelations, this book exposes both the general attitude of the U.S. government toward the privacy rights of American citizens during those difficult years as well as the extent to which King, Levison, and many other freedom workers were hounded by people at the very top of the U.S. security establishment.
Chapter One: Cousin Stanley
Chapter Two: A Walk in the Rose Garden
Chapter Three: From Far Rockaway to Montgomery
Chapter Four: The Communist
Chapter Five: In Friendship
Chapter Six: Harry Belafonte, Janet Levison, and a Totally Different “Kennedy”
Chapter Seven: A Stabbing in Harlem
Chapter Eight: Stanley Knew Better
Chapter Nine: Senator Kennedy Is Calling
Chapter Ten: Martin, Stanley, and Clarence
Chapter Eleven: I Am Not Now and Never Have Been a Member of the Communist Party
Chapter Twelve: I Have a Dream Today
Chapter Thirteen: The Same Thing Is Going to Happen to Me
Chapter Fourteen: Lyndon Johnson, Ping-Pong, and Bobby’s Transformation
Chapter Fifteen: Selma, Vietnam, and the Gathering Shadows
Chapter Sixteen: Bobby Prays in Indianapolis; Stanley Weeps in Atlanta
Afterword: Negroes Will Not Return to Passivity
This is a story about the lives of four of the men who helped to change American history. It tells the rest of the story that is so often left out of historical narratives. It conveys the tension, betrayal, and loyalties that go hand-in-hand with friendships—especially dangerous friendships. When you are done with this book, you will understand the true meaning of courage and have a deeper understanding of the people and events that led America to finally live out the true meaning of its creed: that all men are created equal.
—Don Murphy, retired president and CEO of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
Ben Kamin is an experienced and credentialed scholar of the civil rights movement. In this dramatic and fascinating book, he reveals an important, largely unknown Jewish dimension to that period in history through the person and struggle of Stanley Levison. In great detail, Kamin brings us the uncompromising commitment to freedom, even when that commitment is subject to government harassment of a good man who was clearly motivated by the biblical concepts of social justice and human rights.
—Abraham H. Foxman, National Director, Anti-Defamation League
Politics has always made for strange and interesting bedfellows, and that was especially true at the height of the civil rights movement. With Dangerous Friendship, Ben Kamin continues his keen yet loving exploration into little-known aspects of King’s life and legacy. Intriguingly, Kamin shows the pivotal role Stanley Levison played in King’s rise to grandeur—but also how close their relationship came to ruining him.
—Hampton Sides, author of Hellhound on His Trail