Fact Check

Did Martin Luther King Jr. 'Flip the Bird' at a Photographer?

A photograph appearing to show the civil rights leader eloquently gesturing at a camera is a hoax.

Published May 4, 2017

A photograph shows Martin Luther King Jr. flipping the bird at a photographer.


An old image purportedly showing Martin Luther King Jr. showing his middle finger in an unmistakable gesture to a photographer was thrown back into circulation in May 2017 by the "Classic Pics" Twitter account:

This image has been shared with a wide variety of commentary. For instance, it was once shared on the "Old School Cool" section of Reddit as a picture of a "legend," and the white supremacist web site Daily Stormer has used this image to paint King in a negative light. Regardless of the original intent — the earliest iteration we could find was posted in January 2012 to a Blogspot site on a page of random and unrelated images — this image is not a real photograph.

The original photograph was taken on 19 June 1964, and showed King giving a peace sign (a hand gesture involving two fingers raised in a "v") after hearing that the civil rights bill had passed the senate:

Another image, purportedly showing Martin Luther King Jr., Barack Obama, and Malcolm X together, has also been popular on social media. Like this image, that photograph is also fake.


Taylor, Alan.   "Remembering Martin Luther King Jr. in Photos."     The Atlantic.   19 January 2015.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.