j edgar hoover
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Throughout the ’60s, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s infamous COINTELPRO operations targeted what it called “Black Nationalist Hate Groups,” for surveillance, infiltration, and ultimately, disruption. It was to that end in March 1968 that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover sent a memo to the New York field office, authorizing the use of the Bureau’s secret weapon against the Nation of Islam: the zine.
As one of the most prominent figures of the 20th Century - not to mention an ardent pacifist during the height of the Cold War - it’s not altogether surprising that Albert Einstein’s Federal Bureau of Investigation file stretches several thousand pages. But while Einstein’s sharp critique of U.S. policy at home and abroad gave the J. Edgar Hoover’s Bureau plenty to work with, some of the other concerns raised in the file were dubious at best. At worst, there were Nazi death beams.
Beginning in the early ’50s, the Federal Bureau of Investigation began keeping what would become an extensive file on the singer and civil rights activist Josephine Baker, tracking with great interest her comments in the international press critical of racial discrimination in the U.S. Though the Bureau never formally opened an investigation into Baker, it fielded several requests from the Immigration and Naturalization Service to collect derogatory information that would help make the case for denying her a visa and barring her entry to the country.
We’re celebrating the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s birthday with a look at five different ways MuckRock users have used FOIA to bring shed light on the Bureau’s 11 decades of skulking around in America’s shadows.