From Black Voices — If you don’t know the name Ernest Withers (pictured above), I can guarantee that you know of his work. Remember the famous and horrible picture of Emmett Till (pictured below)? Withers took that one. Consider nearly every well-known picture of Dr. Martin Luther King you can remember. Well, Withers probably took that one too. Ernest Withers had access to Civil Rights leaders like no other.
He was also found to have been an informant for the FBI. The Commercial Appeal in Memphis conducted a two-year investigation in to the life of Withers, who died in 2007. The investigation found that Withers allegedly worked with two FBI agents to keep an eye on the Civil Rights Movement. Withers was known to have been very close to Dr. King and to have had his trust.
“It is an amazing betrayal,” said Athan Theoharis, a historian, told the New York Times. “It really speaks to the degree that the FBI was able to engage individuals within the civil rights movement. This man was so well-trusted.”
Reports say that from 1968 to 1970, Withers provided photos and other detailed information to the FBI about the schedules and whereabouts of Civil Rights figures.
Withers’ identity was apparently released by accident.
In most of the FBI reports, references to Withers were blocked out, replaced by his informant number, ME 338-R, but on several occasions, agents forgot to remove his name.