Killing the Dream

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

As with the assassination of President Kennedy, many believe that the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968 was the result of a vast conspiracy. Along with Gerald Posner’s previous work, CASE CLOSED: LEE HARVEY OSWALD AND THE ASSASSINATION OF JFK (1993), which claimed that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in Kennedy’s death, KILLING THE DREAM: JAMES EARL RAY AND THE ASSASSINATION OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., presents a serious challenge to the conspiracy theorists by claiming that Ray essentially acted alone in King’s murder.

Up to his death in 1998, Ray claimed that he acted under the orders of a mysterious man named “Raoul” who directed him in the year leading up to the murder. Posner, however, paints a far different picture, showing that Ray was a career criminal and chronic liar throughout his life. He presents abundant forensic evidence and carefully traces Ray’s movements during the months leading up to the assassination. His facts quickly uncover James Earl Ray’s many lies and convincingly discredit the popular conspiracy theories.

However, while Posner concludes that Ray was the lone assassin, he notes that he might have been motivated by word of a $50,000 bounty being offered by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) for King’s death. He also discusses the somewhat puzzling meeting between Ray and King’s son Dexter and other King family members shortly before Ray’s death. They became convinced that Martin Luther King, Jr., was the victim of an elaborate plot orchestrated by Army intelligence, the CIA, FBI, and President Lyndon Johnson. Posner points out that no evidence of a plot or a cover-up has ever been produced.

Crammed with facts and extensive (although somewhat distracting) footnotes in the text, this book presents a serious challenge to conspiracy buffs and those who continue to maintain Ray’s innocence.