182. Memorandum From the Director of the United States Information Agency (Marks) to President Johnson1


Following your address to the nation on March 31, we printed the attached pamphlet which has had worldwide circulation.3


The looting and burning in American cities following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King drew sensational headlines and lurid press accounts in news centers around the world. Heavy news treatment pictured the U.S. in racial turmoil, with some papers saying the country was on the brink of civil war.

Headlines and pictures played up the deployment of Federal troops in “riot-torn cities.”

Voluminous editorial comment expressed shock and sorrow at the murder of Dr. King and apprehension that with the loss of his voice of moderation, more militant forces would come to the fore.

Typical comments were:

“In Moscow, Izvestia said: ‘The fatal gun of the murderer of Dr. King was aimed by the same America which is bringing death in Viet-Nam with tens of thousands of bullets. This is the America of the oil magnates, automobile kings, and Pentagon brasshats. . . . But the day will come when the progressive citizens of the U.S. will put an end to it. . . . They have our warm sympathy.’

“Havana radio carried a telephone interview with Stokely Carmichael, quoting him as saying: ‘we’ve gone full swing into the revolution. . . . More people are now beginning to plan seriously a major urban guerrilla war. . . . The U.S. must fall in order for humanity to live.’”

It was quite apparent that the events of the past week have seriously shaken the confidence of America’s allies and friends throughout the world. We have suffered a blow from which it will take a long time to recover. To overcome the adverse reports, we have stressed:

[Page 584]

A. The looting and violence in our major cities involved only a small percentage of our 22 million Negroes.

B. That the Negroes and whites cooperated in every community to repair the damage and aid the afflicted.

C. Great progress has been made in civil rights during your Administration—you have appointed Negroes to your Cabinet, the Supreme Court and other important federal positions;4 Negroes have been selected as public officials in all parts of the nation; substantial gains have been made in integrating Negroes into the business and social community. These themes will be stressed for a substantial period of time.


You will recall that two years ago your personal intervention brought about the successful conclusion of the Cultural Exchange Agreement with the Soviet Union. Negotiations for the new agreement have been delayed by the Soviets and we have just received the first draft of their proposal.5 It contains drastic reductions in the exchanges and exhibits program. Moreover, the circulation of our magazine, “America,” has been reduced with the returns for this month exceeding any for the past year.6

Coincidentally, attacks have been made in the Soviet press against “America,” and against me and the USIA.

It may be that these attacks are a prelude to the negotiations; however, I anticipate rough going.

Leonard H. Marks
  1. Source: Johnson Library, White House Central Files, Confidential File, Agency Reports, Box 135 [2 of 2], United States Information Agency 1967 [2 of 3]. Confidential. Sent through Maguire, who did not initial the memorandum. Maguire did, however, send the memorandum to the President under an April 11 note. (Ibid.)
  2. For text of Johnson’s address, in which he indicated he would not seek or accept the nomination of the Democratic Party for another term as President, see Public Papers: Johnson, 1968–1969, Book I, pp. 469–476.
  3. Attached but not printed.
  4. Among those appointed or nominated by Johnson were Carl T. Rowan, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Robert C. Weaver, and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
  5. Soviet and American officials signed the exchange agreement (19.5 U.S.T. 6073 (1968)), “Cultural Relations: Exchanges in Scientific, Technical, Education, Cultural and Other Fields in 1968–1969,” in Moscow on July 15. For text, see Department of State Bulletin, August 5, 1968, pp. 154–159. The original exchange agreement was signed in January 1958; for text, see Department of State Bulletin, February 17, 1958, p. 243.
  6. See footnote 6, Document 21.