Activists under Surveillance - the FBI Files

Author(s): JPat Brown; B. C. D. Lipton; Michael Morisy; Jameel Jaffer

underculture...misc | politics / history

Selections from FBI files on political activists including Betty Friedan, Abbie Hoffman, Martin Luther King, Aaron Swartz, and Malcolm X.The FBI has always kept tabs on political activists. During the directorship of J. Edgar Hoover, it was a Bureau-wide obsession. Did you see that guy who didn't quite look like a journalist, taking pictures at a demonstration? He was probably FBI. Did you say something mildly subversive in a radio interview? It went in your file. Did you attend a meeting of a left-leaning organization? The attendee who didn't contribute but took copious notes was possibly an informant. This third volume of selected FBI files liberated by MuckRock documents the FBI's pursuit of activists and dissenters ranging from Margaret Sanger to Malcolm X. Despite the absence of evidence, Hoover suspected Communist influence in every political protest. He grilled Martin Luther King, Jr., about Communist sympathizers in the civil rights movement (while offering reporters off-the-record hints about King's extramarital affairs). The Bureau investigated the supposed threat posed by Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers but not threats to them, even after the detonation of a bomb in their office. The Bureau persevered: files on Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein cover six decades, from unfounded rumors of Communist connections to her participation in a Black Lives Matter demonstration.Recently, we hoped against hope that a former FBI director would save us from our current political predicament. These documents remind us of the FBI's troubling history.The ActivistsRoger Nash Baldwin, Cesar Chavez, Hedy Epstein, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Betty Friedan, Thelma Glass, Fred Hampton, Abbie Hoffman, Martin Luther King, Jr., Harvey Milk, Bayard Rustin, Margaret Sanger, Aaron Swartz, John Trudell, Malcolm X, Howard Zinn


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“This work by Brown, Lipton, and Morisy reminds us that the powerful institutions of the federal government are only as good as the men and women who lead them. The document collection …includes file records on Betty Friedan, Abbie Hoffman, Harvey Milk, Bayard Rustin, and Malcolm X, among others. There are no surprises, but when considered as a whole, the papers are chilling. Activists of the 1960s were certain that the Bureau was spying on them. The release of this compilation and others like it confirms their concerns and apprehensions. Yet the files are mostly boring bureaucratic documents. For the most part, the Bureau was not incompetent; it was simply misguided.”

Roger Abrams – New York Journal of Books   (JC BookGrocer)

General Fields

  • : 9780262517898
  • : MIT Press
  • : MIT Press
  • : October 2019
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : JPat Brown; B. C. D. Lipton; Michael Morisy; Jameel Jaffer
  • : Paperback
  • : 392