Hovering above Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Dallas, a provocative billboard makes a controversial claim in black and red block letters: “Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican. VOTE REPUBLICAN!”
It's a claim, and a voter registration tactic, that has been used before, despite a decidedly mixed reactions from community members who see it.
The ads posted this year -- as well as similar billboards posted in Austin and in Houston back in 2009 -- are the brainchild of Claver Kamau-Imani, a Houston, Texas, church leader and the founder of RagingElephants.org, a conservative group that aims to recruit more African Americans for the Republican Party.
Kamau-Imani said the use of the American Civil Rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner is appropriate and accurate.
“The use of Dr. King, because of him being an icon in the community, we feel would be most effective," Kamau-Imani told CBS DFW. "That’s why we used it. We have the documentation to back the claims we’re making on the billboard.”
This documentation is hard to pin down, however. In 2009, Kamau-Imani told Fox News that King's niece, the Rev. Alveda King, said her uncle was indeed a Republican. But while video of Alveda King's claim is available on YouTube, Kamau-Imani acknowledged there's no documentation to back her up.
That 2009 billboard was taken down early, after the leader of the local New Black Panther Party chapter organized a press conference rallying support against the $3,000 sign.
"Martin Luther King may have very well believed in some of the Christian principles of the Republican Party, but Dr. Martin Luther King was not a Republican or a Democrat," Quanell X told Fox News at the time. "[He] would not be with the party of Newt Gingrich, he would not be with the party of Sarah Palin, he would not be with the party of Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage or Sean Hannity."
In 2011, Politifact investigated RagingElephant's claims, enlisting the help of several noted historians and King biographers.
Thomas Jackson, a history professor at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and author of "From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice," told the fact-checking site that while the Republican party of Abraham Lincoln's era defended black rights, this attitude shifted after the 1870s. Jackson said he would call King a "'tax and spend' democratic socialist."
David Garrow, the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning, "Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference" said "It's simply incorrect to call Dr. King a Republican," adding that the activist did not ascribe to either party, but almost certainly voted for Democrats John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.
Dr. King's son Martin Luther King III, as well as various other friends have all objected to this label. Ultimately, Politifact said the claim was false.
Back in Dallas, Peter Johnson, an activist who worked alongside King in the 1960s, told CBS that the billboards are simply offensive.
“Using his image is one thing, exploiting his legacy is another," Johnson said. "To distort his legacy, it’s sacred to some of us. We know the suffering and sacrifice that was made.”
Don King has consistently supported Republican candidates. In 2005 he told New York Magazine: "George Walker Bush--he's tough-minded but he's tender-hearted. He's trying to reclaim that glory of that American Dream for all Americans."
Former basketball player Karl Malone is a registered Republican. He was also a member of the National Rifle Association.
Harriet Tubman supported Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. She also fought to defeat the Confederacy as a soldier in the Union Army.
During the Civil War abolitionist Sojourner Truth recruited black troops to fight in the Union Army. She was also a supporter of Abraham Lincoln and met with him during the Civil War.
The Rock is a registered Republican. He also was invited to speak at the 2000 Republican Convention.
50 Cent told GQ in 2005 that George W. Bush is" incredible ... a gangsta. I wanna meet George Bush, just shake his hand and tell him how much of me I see in him."
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. has a controversial history with political affiliation. King never officially endorsed a party. His beliefs do not resonate with today's GOP. However, In a 2010 article in Salon, David Garrow, a civil rights movement historian at the University of Cambridge said: "King was not only not a Republican, he was well to the left of the Democratic Party of the 1960s. One could make a very strong case that King thought of himself as a democratic socialist. It's also well-documented that Dr. King was a strong supporter of Planned Parenthood."
LL Cool J
In 2002 LL Cool J supported NY Governor George Pataki. He also attended the Republican Convention in 2004.
Eazy-E's donation to many L.A. charities earned him an invite to the ''Salute to the Commander in Chief'' luncheon in Washington in 1991. The event was sponsored by The National Republican Senatorial Committee and George Bush and 1,400 Republicans were in attendance. The rapper's spokesman said he ''really loves the President. He thinks he's a great humanitarian and that he did a great job with Desert Storm."
Booker T. Washington
Booker T. Washington acted as an advisor to presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft because he accepted racial subordination. He was also invited to the White House by Teddy Roosevelt.