MLK’s Tax Case

Some people and organizations in positions of power tried to debunk the efforts and mission of Martin Luther King, Jr. with false accusations. Even some state and local governments wanted to silence him. For example, did you know that King was indicted for income tax fraud in February 1960? These tax problems eventually led him to court.

The state of Alabama had charged King with signing fraudulent 1956 and 1958 tax returns. Specifically he was charged with failing to report income from the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), that his actual income was up around $45,000 in 1958, and that he owed the state more than $1,700.

King’s attorneys characterized the state’s position as a “gross misrepresentation of fact.” They argued that the money received from SCLC was expense reimbursement, not income, and thus not taxable. The all-white jury deliberated nearly four hours before returning a ‘‘not guilty’’ verdict.