Gasp! Ernest Withers is known as the official photographer of the Civil Rights movement. Photographer Ernest Withers doubled as FBI informant to spy on
He was on the front line with an insider access to folks like Martin Luther King and other notable civil rights advocates. Word on the cyberstreet is the photojournalist was paid for his sneaky undercover efforts….for a black photojournalist to be an informant or a spy violates folks trust during the civil rights era. Professor Earl Caldwell is gagging at the news to hear about the Ernest Withers. The folks opening the Ernest Withers Museum in Memphis, Tenn. may have to make some adjustments. The museum is scheduled to open October 15, three years after the death of the legendary black photographer, who documented the civil rights era with nearly unmatched access to its defining characters and events. Ernest C. Withers, died in 2007 at the age of 85. He was in Martin Luther King’s room in the Lorraine Hotel on the night King was assassinated. When he died, Withers had the largest catalog of any individual photographer covering the civil-rights movement in the South.
But it might as well be renamed the ME 338-R Museum after a Tennessee newspaper revealed that Withers wasn’t just snapping photos – he was also relaying intelligence to the FBI as a paid mole, referred to in FBI documents by that confidential informant number.
“[FBI] reports portray Withers as a prolific informant who, from at least 1968 until 1970, passed on tips and photographs detailing an insider’s view of politics, business and everyday life in Memphis’ black community,” Memphis’ Commercial Appeal reported Sunday following a two-year investigation.