Jerry Mitchell, USA Today, January 15, 2010
U.S. Sen. John Kerry plans to introduce legislation next week that would pave the way for the release of thousands of FBI documents on the life and death of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Kerry, D-Mass., said the bill, which failed in 2006, can pass this year in honor of King. “I want the world to know what he stood for,” Kerry said. “And I want his personal history preserved and examined by releasing all of his records.”
The bill calls for creating a Martin Luther King Records Collection at the National Archives that would include all government records related to King. The bill also would create a five-member independent review board that would identify and make public all documents from agencies including the FBI–just as a review board in 1992 made public documents related to the 1963 John F. Kennedy assassination.
“This is personal for someone who came of age in the civil rights movement and was inspired by Dr. King,” Kerry said. “He challenged the conscience of my generation and still moves a new generation of volunteers and activists to speak out against prejudice and suffering, wherever they might take place.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Taylor Branch, whose books detail King’s life, praised the idea of gathering all the documents on King and making them available online.
Second District U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat and a veteran of the civil rights movement, said he supports the release of documents–and believes the House and Senate will, too.
Alvin Sykes of Kansas City, architect of the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Act, and Hank Klibanoff, managing editor of the Cold Case Truth and Justice Project, believe Kerry’s idea should be expanded to include the release of documents involving not only King’s assassination, but also other racial slayings from the civil rights era.