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article image'Original civil rights photographer' was an informant for FBI

By Andrew Moran     Sep 14, 2010 in World
Memphis - Dubbed as the "original civil rights photographer," recently released reports show that Memphis resident Ernest Withers was actually an informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1968 to 1970.
On Oct. 15th, the Ernest Withers Museum will be officially open in Memphis, Tennessee, which celebrates the life of famed civil rights photographer Ernest Withers who died three years ago.
Withers had some of the most famous photographs that captured the key moments of the civil rights movement in the United States, including shots of Dr. Martin Luther King. However, Withers was more than just a photographer, he was a spy for the FBI.
After completing a two-year investigation, a Memphis newspaper, the Commercial Appeal, concluded that Withers was an FBI mole and had provided the agency with tips, information and photographs about both the civil rights and anti-war movements.
The newspaper also noted that Withers had shadowed King all day prior to his death and gave the FBI information that civil rights leaders met with suspected black militants.
“Much of his undercover work helped the FBI break up the Invaders, a Black Panther-styled militant group that became popular in disaffected black Memphis in the late 1960s and was feared by city leaders,” the paper wrote.
Decades later, some of those involved in the movement are coming forward with their disbelief and thoughts of Withers being an FBI mole, such as retired Memphis judge and former civil rights activist, D’Army Bailey, who said it’s something that “you would expect in the most ruthless, totalitarian regimes.”
“Once that trust is shattered that doesn't go away.”
Meanwhile, retired minister who organized civil rights demonstrations in the south, Rev. James M. Lawson Jr., said, reports CBS News, that if the information is true then “Ernie abused our friendship.”
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