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African American Studies

A guide designed for students taking courses in African American Studies

Federal Response to Radicalization in the 1960s

his archive sheds light on the internal organization, personnel, and activities of some of the most prominent radical groups in the United States in the 1960s. It serves to illuminate the conflict between the need of government to protect basic freedoms and the equally legitimate need to protect itself from genuine security threats. The collection supports a variety of courses in U.S. history, cultural studies, radical politics, and the study of social movements.

The files contained here include:

COINTELPRO: The Counterintelligence Program of the FBI

The FBI Counterintelligence Program file contains details of the bureau's attempts to "expose, disrupt, and neutralize" groups that director J. Edgar Hoover perceived as threatening to national security. The file of 54,202 pages is organized in sections that reflect the bureau's interests, among them the Communist Party of the USA, Black nationalist "hate" groups, White "hate" groups, the Socialist Workers Party, and Cuban groups supporting Fidel Castro. The material spans COINTELPRO's existence from 1956 to 1971.

FBI File on Abbie Hoffman

The energetic activism of Abbie Hoffman (1936-1989) earned him a reputation as an agitator and an effective voice for America's counter culture of the 1960s. Hoffman attracted the attention of the FBI through his disruptive and dramatic demonstration at the 1968 Democratic National Convention; and he was associated with major radical groups in the 1960s, including the Black Panthers, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), and the Youth International Party (YIP), which he cofounded in 1968. The collection contains 9,068 pages.

FBI File on Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers

This FBI file of 2,073 pages traces the investigation of labor organizer Cesar Chavez (1927-1993) and the United Farm Workers. The records included here are roughly chronological in organization. Scholars of 20th-century U.S. history, labor history, Chicano studies, and social history will find this collection valuable resource.

FBI File on the Students for a Democratic Society and the Weatherman Underground Organization

This is one of the few collections on Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and its spin-off, the Weatherman Underground Organization. Consisting of 11,348 pages it covers the period between 1962 and 1977. Notable for its description of antiwar rallies and SDS-produced materials, the file is particularly useful for its coverage of the SDS-led protests at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. Both J. Edgar Hoover and President Lyndon B. Johnson came to view the SDS as a key fomenter of anti-Vietnam sentiment. The file concludes with the 1977 capture of Peter Clapp, one of the last "wanted" Weathermen.

FBI File on the Fire Bombing and Shooting at Kent State University

This collection of 9,685 pages documents the events surrounding the killing of four unarmed college students at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, on May 4, 1970. A national response to the shootings resulted in the closure of hundreds of universities and schools and a massive student strike across the United States.

FBI File on Brown Berets

Founded in Los Angles in the late 1960s, the Brown Berets were an influential community-based social justice organization that played a leading role in the Chicano Civil Rights Movements of the 1960s and 1970s. This collection consists of 1,015 pages.

FBI Surveillance of African Americans, 1920 - 1984

Throughout the twentieth century Black Americans of all political persuasions were subject to federal scrutiny, harassment, and prosecution. The Federal Bureau of Investigation enlisted black "confidential special informants" to infiltrate a variety of organizations. Hundreds of documents in this collection were originated by such operatives. The reports provide a wealth of detail on "Negro" radicals and their organizations. In addition to infiltration, the FBI contributed to the infringement of First Amendment freedoms by making its agents a constant visible presence at radical rallies and meetings. This archive is based on original microfilm.

The files contained here include:

FBI File on A. Philip Randolph

A. Philip Randolph (1889-1979), an outspoken black labor leader, is perhaps best remembered as the organizer of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. He was elected a vice president of the AFL-CIO in 1955. This file of 695 pages includes memos and correspondence, most dating from the 1940s with some coverage into the early 1960s.

FBI File on Adam Clayton Powell

Controversial politician, legislator, and clergyman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (1908-1972) was active in many labor organizations and "militant" groups. He won election to the New York City council in 1941, becoming the first black man to serve on that body, and to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1945. In 1967 Powell was excluded by Congress for alleged misuse of House funds. In 1969 the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the House action in depriving Powell of his seat had been unconstitutional. The collection contains 9,133 pages.

FBI File on the Atlanta Child Murders (ATKID)

The file, dating from June 1980, contains memos, letters, laboratory tests, a detailed account of the trial and records of civil-rights questions regarding the case raised by Georgia Representative Mildred Glover and others. The collection contains 2,911 pages.

FBI File on the Black Panther Party, North Carolina

Documents in this file of 3,131 pages span the years 1968 to 1976. Contained here are surveillance reports and investigative and legal memoranda, as well as Black Panther Party publications, transcriptions of speeches by black militant spokespersons, digests of FBI phone intercepts at party headquarters and some of the party's internal records and correspondence.

FBI File on the Committee for Public Justice

The Committee for Public Justice (CPJ), an affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, was formed in 1970 to voice concern over the "period of political repression" it perceived the nation to be entering. After the CPJ denounced the FBI, the bureau enlisted conservative media figures to help neutralize the impact of the committee's findings. This file of 802 pages continues after the death of J. Edgar Hoover in 1972 and includes efforts by directors L. Patrick Gray and Clarence M. Kelley.

FBI File on Elijah Muhammed

Born Elijah Poole in 1897, "the Messenger of Allah" assumed leadership of the movement later known as the Nation of Islam in 1934. The file contains material the FBI collected to show immoral, subversive, or criminal activity in order to discredit Elijah Muhammed as a leader of the Nation of Islam. The collection contains 3,138 pages.

FBI File on the Highlander Folk School

The Highlander Folk School was established in Monteagle, Tennessee, in 1932 by Myles Horton (1905-1990), a native Tennessean who wanted to "provide an educational center in the South for the training of rural and industrial leaders, and for the conservation and enrichment of the indigenous cultural values of the mountain." The school initially educated union workers who were considered potential leaders; then, in the 1940s, it began accepting African Americans into its program, and emphasis shifted toward aiding southern rural workers. This change raised suspicions among conservative groups, and eventually the school's charter was revoked because state law required private schools to be racially segregated. This file of 1,400 pages is rich in school-produced materials and local news clippings.

FBI File on the Ku Klux Klan Murder of Viola Liuzzo

Like the "Mississippi Burning" investigation, this was one of the first cases to test the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The file of 1,595 pages contains FBI letters, memorandums, teletypes, and other documents.

FBI File on Malcolm X

Malcolm X (1925-1965), one of the black militant movement's most dynamic and controversial figures, joined the Black Muslims while serving a prison sentence and, on his release in 1952, became a minister in Elijah Mohammed's Nation of Islam. Later breaking with his group, he converted to orthodox Islam and founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity. The FBI opened a file on Malcolm X in 1953 and continued surveillance until his assassination in 1965. The collection contains 15,610 pages.

FBI File: MIBURN (Mississippi Burning)

In the summer of 1964, civil rights advocates Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Earl Chaney were working in rural Mississippi where they were abducted and killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan. Their murders were among the first to be tried under the new Civil Rights Act. This file of 1,123 pages includes bureau letters, memoranda, and prosecuting reports.

FBI File on the Moorish Science Temple of America

The FBI investigated the Moorish Science Temple for its alleged hostility toward capitalism and its efforts to incite revolution. This collection is organized into geographic sections demarcating FBI headquarters and various field offices, including Baltimore, Chicago and Philadelphia. It is filed chronologically within the geographic sections. Materials contain correspondence, memos, reports, interviews, and pamphlets. The collection contains 4,069 pages.

FBI File on the Murder of Lemuel Penn

This FBI file documents the investigation and trial of African-American U.S. Army Reserve Officer Lemuel Penn, who was murdered by member of the Ku Klux Klan on July 11, 1964. The file's 5,403 pages contain newspaper clippings, reports concerning Klan-related activities, including statements from eyewitnesses, and photographs of areas where Klan meetings were held. It also includes correspondence by Lester Maddox, Thurgood Marshall, and President Lyndon B. Johnson.

FBI File on Muslim Mosque, Inc.

Founded by Malcolm X after his break with the Nation of Islam, Muslim Mosque, Inc., was a politically-oriented movement affiliated with the orthodox Islamic religion. The file contains memoranda by Special Agents in Charge and supporting documentation. The collection consists of 2,755 pages.

FBI File on the NAACP

This file on the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) covers the years 1923 to 1957 and documents FBI investigations into the NAACP's alleged connections with the Communist Party. The collection contains 5,828 pages.

FBI File on the National Negro Congress

Among these files are synopses of news reports regarding the National Negro Congress (NNC), meeting announcements, copies of the organization's constitution, membership rosters, and the FBI's investigative reports. The collection contains 3,418 pages.

FBI File on the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU)

Organized by Malcolm X after his break with the Nation of Islam, the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) was under FBI surveillance from its establishment until it dissolved in the 1960s. This file contains memoranda by FBI agents along with supporting documentation. The collection contains 1,198 pages.

FBI File on Paul Robeson

Contained here are documents on the FBI investigation of, and dissemination of information about, the actor Paul Robeson (1898-1976) and his Communist Party association, which contributed significantly to the ruin of his career. This file of 2,989 pages includes all the FBI reports on Robeson and his wife, news clippings, and transcripts of his telephone conversations.

FBI File on the Reverend Jesse Jackson

The FBI files on Jesse Jackson span the years 1967 to 1984. Included here are the original investigative file on Jackson detailing his early career as head of "Operation Breadbasket" and PUSH (People United to Save Humanity); records of various threats made against him; documents from class-action suits in which he joined against the FBI, CIA, and City of Chicago; and information regarding FBI and Secret Service protection of Jackson as a presidential candidate in 1984. The collection contains 1,337 pages.

FBI File on Roy Wilkins

Roy Wilkins (1901-1981), a prominent member of the NAACP, served as acting secretary and later as executive secretary. He was a key figure in the prevention of Communist infiltration of the NAACP. Provided here is information on Wilkins's connections to such figures as Paul Robeson and Martin Luther King, Jr. This file of 1,010 pages is rich in Black Panther Party documents critical of Wilkins.

FBI File on the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was organized in 1960 to encourage voter registration for blacks in the Deep South. Under Stokely Carmichael (1941-1998), the group pushed for economic enfranchisement and advocated black supremacy. The FBI maintained a file on the SNCC because Communists were believed to be infiltrating its leadership. This file of 3,009 pages comprises reports from 19 cities, including Atlanta (SNCC national headquarters), Chicago, Dallas, and San Francisco. Each section is in chronological order, from 1964 to 1973. The file contains addresses, membership, and information on groups believed to associate with the SNCC.

FBI File on Thurgood Marshall

This lightly excised FBI file of 1,480 pages is of great value to those studying African-American history and the civil rights movement.

FBI File on W. E. B. Du Bois

NAACP founder W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963) was investigated by the FBI for suspected Communist ties. In 1951 the Peace Information Center he was running was indicted as a suspected Communist "front" organization. The file of 978 pages contains coverage on this event and the last section consists of newspaper clippings about Du Bois.

FBI Investigation File on Communist Infiltration of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference

This file documents the FBI's investigation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which was organized in 1957 in Atlanta, with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as president. This collection contains 13,574 pages.

FBI Investigation File on Marcus Garvey

The FBI investigation File on Marcus Garvey (1887-1940) is an informative source on his role as a spokesman for black nationalism, on the American black community of the 1920s, and on the origins of the black social protest and separatist movements. This collection contains 1,435 pages.

Republic of New Afrika

Republic of New Afrika

The FBI believed the Republic of New Afrika to be a seditious group and conducted raids on its meetings, which led to violent confrontations, and the arrest and repeated imprisonment of RNA leaders. The group was a target of the COINTELPRO operation by the federal authorities but was also subject to diverse Red Squad activities of Michigan State Police and the Detroit Police Department, among other cities.

The Republic of New Afrika (RNA) was a social movement organization that proposed three objectives. First of these objectives was the creation of an independent Black-majority country composed of the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina and the Black-majority counties adjacent to this area in Arkansas, Tennessee and Florida. A similar claim was made for all the Black-majority counties and cities throughout the United States. Second, they demanded $400 billion in reparations for the injustices suffered by African Americans during the slavery and segregation periods. Third, they demanded a referendum of all African Americans in order to decide what should be done with their citizenry. Regarding the latter, it was claimed that Black people were not given the choice to decide in regard to what they wanted to do after emancipation. These concessions would then form the basis of an independent Black nation.

The Republic of New Afrika’s provisional government was founded at a conference of militant Black nationalists meeting in Detroit in 1968. The conference was convened by attorney Milton Henry and his brother Richard, former acquaintances of Malcolm X who had renamed themselves Gaidi Obadele and Imari Abubakari Obadele. Imari Obadele was elected to the position of "Provisional President". The group advocated cooperative economics and community self-sufficiency, but also supported limiting political rights and press freedoms, prohibiting trades unions, mandatory military service and the legalization of polygamy.

The FBI believed the Republic of New Afrika to be a seditious group and conducted raids on its meetings, which led to violent confrontations, and the arrest and repeated imprisonment of RNA leaders. In addition, the group was a target of the COINTELPRO operation by the federal authorities, but was also subject to diverse Red Squad activities of the Michigan State Police and Detroit Police Department-among other cities.

This collection provides documentation collected by the FBI through intelligence activities, informants, surveillance, and cooperation with local police departments. These documents chronicle the activities of Republic of New Afrika national and local leaders, power struggles within the organization, its growing militancy, and its affiliations with other Black militant organizations.