Stanley Levison

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Stanley D. Levison
File:Stanley Levison.jpg
Born (1912-05-02)May 2, 1912
Died September 12, 1979(1979-09-12) (aged 67)
Nationality American
Alma mater St. John's University
University of Michigan
Occupation Businessman
Known for March on Washington

Stanley David Levison (May 2, 1912 - September 12, 1979) was an American businessman who studied at the University of Michigan and who had also attained a law degree from St. John's University. He was a lifelong activist in progressive causes. He is best known as an advisor to, and close friend of Martin Luther King Jr., for whom he helped write speeches and organize events.


Levison was in the leadership of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) in the 1950s. The FBI had him under the surveillance of Jack and Morris Childs, two former CPUSA members who became FBI informants. According to the FBI, Levison's CPUSA activities ended in 1957.[1]

He had initially been introduced to King by Bayard Rustin, a Quaker, in New York City in 1956. Though King had offered to pay Levison in exchange for his help, Levison refused on every occasion: "the liberation struggle is the most positive and rewarding area of work anyone could experience."[2]

He was questioned by the FBI twice, on February 9 and March 4, 1960.[3] Two years later, on April 30, 1962, he was called to testify under subpoena at an executive session of the Senate Subcommittee on Internal Security, where he was represented by William Kunstler. Large parts of his testimony are still classified.[4]

Although there was no evidence of Levison having further ties to the CPUSA, the FBI used his earlier communist history to justify wiretaps and bugs on his offices and the offices and hotel rooms of Martin Luther King. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover did not consider King to be a communist, but he considered the possibility that Levison might use or manipulate King to stimulate political unrest within the United States.

Levison was instrumental in all the activities of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the organization established by King and other Southern black preachers to further the cause of civil rights. He professionalized the fund raising of the organization and took on many of the publicity tasks, in addition to serving as King's literary agent. He was also a close adviser to King and a ghostwriter for him.[5]


Levison's role as advisor and friend to King was portrayed by actor Steven Hill in King, a 1978 television miniseries. He is also portrayed by Bruce Nozick in All the Way.


  1. Garrow, David (July 2002). "The FBI and Martin Luther King". Atlantic Monthly. 290 (1).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Levison, Stanley in King Encyclopedia
  3. "Levison, Stanley D., 1912-1979".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "FBI — Stanley Levison". FBI.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. GAGE, BEVERLY (November 11, 2014). "What an Uncensored Letter to M.L.K. Reveals". NYTimes.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Taylor Branch, At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68
  • Taylor Branch, Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-65
  • Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63
  • Ben Kamin. Dangerous Friendship: Stanley Levison, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Kennedy Brothers. Michigan State University Press, 2014.

External links