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Stanley Levison

Stanley Levison

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Stanley David Levison was a Jewish businessman from New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

, who had also attained a law degree from St. John's University. He was a life-long activist in progressive causes. He is best known as an advisor to, and close friend of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whom he helped write speeches and organize events.

He had initially been introduced to King by Bayard Rustin
Bayard Rustin
Bayard Rustin was an American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, pacifism and non-violence, and gay rights.In the pacifist Fellowship of Reconciliation , Rustin practiced nonviolence...

, a Quaker, in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 in 1956. Though King had offered to pay Levison in exchange for his help, Levison refused on every occasion stating that "the liberation struggle is the most positive and rewarding area of work anyone could experience".

Levison was in the leadership of the Communist Party USA
Communist Party USA
The Communist Party USA is a Marxist political party in the United States, established in 1919. It has a long, complex history that is closely related to the histories of similar communist parties worldwide and the U.S. labor movement....

 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.

He was questioned twice, on February 9 and March 4, 1960. Two years later, on April 30, 1962, he was called to testify under subpoena
A subpoena is a writ by a government agency, most often a court, that has authority to compel testimony by a witness or production of evidence under a penalty for failure. There are two common types of subpoena:...

 at an executive session of the Senate Subcommittee on Internal Security, where he was represented by William Kunstler
William Kunstler
William Moses Kunstler was an American self-described "radical lawyer" and civil rights activist, known for his controversial clients...

; his testimony is still considered Classified.

Although there was no evidence of Levison having further ties to the CPUSA, the FBI used his earlier CP history to justify wiretaps and bugs on his offices and the offices and hotel rooms of Martin Luther King. FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover
J. Edgar Hoover
John Edgar Hoover was the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States. Appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation—predecessor to the FBI—in 1924, he was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935, where he remained director until his death in 1972...

, did not consider King to be a communist, but did consider 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
Southern Christian Leadership Conference
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference is an African-American civil rights organization. SCLC was closely associated with its first president, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr...

 (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 much of the publicity tasks, in addition to serving as King's literary agent. He was also a close adviser of King.

Levison's role as advisor and friend to King was portrayed by actor Steven Hill
Steven Hill
Steven Hill is an American film and television actor. His two better-known roles are District Attorney Adam Schiff on the NBC TV drama series Law & Order, whom he portrayed for ten seasons , and Dan Briggs, the original team leader of the Impossible Missions Force on CBS's television series...

 in King, a 1978 television miniseries.

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