Wednesday, December 12, 2007

1,429 Pages In FBI's "James Baldwin File"

Although the FBI has never been famous for its special interest in African-American literature, it apparently showed a great interest in the prominent U.S. novelist James Baldwin, prior to his death in 1987. As Natalie Robins noted in her book, Alien Ink: The FBI’s War On Freedom Of Expression:

“The first mention of novelist, playwright, and essayist James Baldwin anywhere in the FBI files occurs in 1951—in Richard Wright’s file…Baldwin’s 1,429-page file remained `dead’ until 1960. The FBI employed a great many confidential informants to shadow Baldwin, people who attended rallies and meetings with him, and reported what he said and did, as well as neighbors who were willing to keep a surveillance on him, or monitor his mail for any change of address. The FBI also telephoned him under various pretexts to ascertain his whereabouts, and photographed him…By 1964, the bureau stepped up its harassment of James Baldwin, targeting him in a COINTELPRO operation…He was to be one of 8 recipients of an anonymous letter…”

(Downtown 3/31/93)

Next: Columbia University Professor Dinkins’ Historic Wall Street Connection