How The FBI Used A Famous Photographer To Infiltrate The Civil Rights Movement

Apr 4, 2018

Marc Perrusquia is a journalist for The Commercial Appeal, the daily newspaper in Memphis, Tennessee, where he has worked the past twenty-nine years.

Renowned photographer Ernest Withers captured some of the most stunning moments of the civil rights era, from the age-defining snapshot of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., riding one of the first integrated buses in Montgomery, to the haunting photo of Emmett Till’s great-uncle pointing an accusing finger at his nephew’s killers. He was trusted and beloved by King’s inner circle, and had a front row seat to history but few people know that Withers was also an informant for the FBI.

Memphis journalist Marc Perrusquia broke the story of Withers’s secret life after a long investigation culminating in a landmark lawsuit against the government to release hundreds of once-classified FBI documents. Now, on the fiftieth anniversary of King’s assassination, Perrusquia's book, "A Spy in Canaan," explores the life, complex motivations, and legacy of this fascinating figure Ernest Withers, as well as the dark shadow that era’s culture of surveillance has cast on our own time.