Thursday, January 02, 2014

John Shelton Reed's seeming conspiracy against Martin Luther King

In 1995 I was indexing issues of Chronicles magazine, a publication of the Rockford Institute in Rockford, Illinois. The Rockford Institute had a campaign to discredit Martin Luther King. Up until about the mid-1990s John Shelton Reed contributed articles to Chronicles magazine where his homophobia was rather upfront and his racial attitudes were very very thinly veiled.

It turns out that sections of King's dissertations are copied from other works. At the time of the discovery in 1990 King was dead and so was the dissertation advisor.

What is interesting is that John Shelton Reed played a very key role in helping the Rockford Institute attack Martin Luther King. The articles in Chronicles also attacked Boston University and administrators there. So I wrote Peter Woods to find out more.

The following is an extract from the letter to me from Peter Wood, Provost of Boston University, July 19, 1995, which I have permission to use which shows the role of John Shelton Reed who is referred to as Dr. Reed.  Reed is an academic with a Ph.D.

Although you cannot rebut the substance of the allegations, there is probably something worth saying about the tactics and motives of Mr. Fleming, Dr. Reed, and their collaborators. When Dr. Reed wrote to Boston University President John Silber in May 1990 alleging that Dr. King committed plagiarism in his doctoral dissertation, he cited no source, offered no evidence, and made no specific claims. From Dr. Reed's letter, it was impossible to tell in in [if] Dr. King was being accused of plagiarizing two words, two paragraphs, or the whole dissertation, and he offered no clue as to whom Dr. King had allegedly plagiarized. 
 John Shelton Reed's essay in Chronicles some months latter repeated this technique of broadside allegation, so vague as to be uncheckable, but presented in a manner that suggested that it was a well-established fact. In retrospect, it appears that neither Dr. Reed nor Mr. Fleming had any real evidence, but Dr. Reed knew from his service at a National Endowment for the Humanities reviewer (where he apparently saw a confidential report from Dr. Carson about King's plagiarism) that there was something to hunt for. The trick was to avoid violating NEH confidentiality by dropping hints and hoping Boston University would make the discovery on its own. 
Perhaps there was more to it than that, but that is my best guess as to why Chronicles developed the story in such an odd manner before the article in The Wall Street Journal on November 9, 1990, in which clear and specific allegations and evidence were for the first time presented to the public. So much for tactics.
King is not honored because he was a great academic, but for his courage and vision in leading the civil rights movement. However, the neo-Confederates hoped to discredit King with this information. John Shelton Reed was working with them to do this.

It also shows the impact when neo-Confederates are placed in cultural institutions and bodies.

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