The Poison Pen Letters: How The F.B.I Trolled Black Leaders.

It is not uncommon today to check the comments section of any of your favorite website or blogs, to find trolls (someone who intentionally antagonizes people online) diverting the energy using slander and name calling. Even though this is a technology-based phenomenon the concept of using hateful rhetoric to sway someone’s opinion isn’t new.

In the late 1960s, the FBI’s COINTELPRO project relied heavily on what they called “Poison Pen Letters.” Which were basically anonymous letters aimed at being abusive and malicious, sound familiar?

It was commonplace for a chapter of the Black Panther Party to receive a poison pen letter with incorrect information about other organizations plan to harm them. The unnamed author would also suggest which Black Panthers were FBI informants attempting to cause tension between the party members.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also received a poison-pen letter. The unnamed author of the letter that was sent to him claimed to have a videotape of a sexual encounter Dr. King was involved in, as well as other incriminating information.

The letter ended with a final request that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. take his own life. Needless to say, he didn’t grant them their request, but it goes to show that using anonymous hate speech is nothing more than history repeating itself.

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