Monday, June 11, 2007

Woody Guthrie's FBI File

In a July 15, 1946 letter, Woody Guthrie wrote the following:

“I have never sung nor made songs just to entertain the upper classes, but to curse their clawing, reckless racketeers, and to warn the nervous ones that live and die by greed....

“Not all of us folk and ballad makers and singers stand where I stand. Not all of them see the world as I see it. Some would rather be a `character’ and to be fotographed and filmed, broadcast and recorded, and paid big money by the big money side. They would rather occupy a certain social position, to be well known, to play the game of publicity gangsters and to enjoy the crowds that clap and yell when you tell them directly or indirectly that this old world is okie dokie, she is all right, she is a nice good place to live on, and if you kick or argue, or make too much noise with your mouth, then you are just a native barnkicker, and a griper, and you are kicked out by your own inability to `cooperate’ with the high moguls…

“If your work gets to be labeled as communist or even as communistic or even as radically leaning in the general direction of bolshevism, then, of course, you are black balled, black listed, chalked up as a revolutionary bomb thrower, and you invite the whole weight of the capitalist machine to be thrown against you…”

Coincidentally, among the 55 pages in Woody Guthrie’s de-classified FBI file [100-29988] , is a July 18, 1941 “Memorandum to Mr. Matthew F. McGuire, The Assistant to the Attorney General” from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover which states:

“From a confidential source, information has been furnished this Bureau that one Woodrow W. Guthrie, who is employed by the Department of the Interior, is allegedly a member of the Communist Party. This individual is reported as being at the present time on the West Coast, engaged in the making of a motion picture for the Department of the Interior…”

Also contained in Woody Guthrie’s de-classified FBI file is an October 17, 1941 letter to the “Special Agent in Charge, San Francisco, California” from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, “Re: Woodrow W. Guthrie, Internal Security”, which states:

“…Guthrie is no longer an employee of another Governmental agency and in the event the files of your field division reflect the desirability of conducting an investigation into his activities and sympathies in order to determine whether they are inimical to the best interests of this Government you are at liberty to do so.”
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