Total Literary Awareness: How the FBI Pre-read African American Writing

This essay appears in Vol. 1 No. 1 of The American Reader (available here).

J. Edgar Hoover’s “Charismatic Bureaucracy”

Ellen Schrecker, liberalism’s semi-official chronicler of McCarthyism, hints that this dark episode of modern American history deserves a name change.  “Had observers known in the 1950s what they have learned since the 1970s, when the Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] opened the [FBI’s] files,” she speculates, “McCarthyism would probably have been called ‘Hooverism.’ ”[1]  Schrecker’s case depends on a high regard for the functioning of J. Edgar Hoover’s charismatic bureaucracy—the FBI’s design, management, and marketing of a “machinery of political repression” able to install anticommunism as a touchstone of good government during the Cold War.[2]  Providing undercover informers to Smith Act prosecutors set on jailing Communists was just one part of this machinery.  Under a secret “Responsibilities Program,” established in 1951, the Bureau also dispatched file-based, not-for-attribution blind memoranda to governors and other “appropriate authorities,” warning of possible Reds on the payroll.[3]  Well-honed Bureau techniques for indexing dissent directly fed the classic sin of the blacklist, fingering over 400 public employees for firing, most of them school and university teachers.  The names the FBI could not legally communicate to state officials it delivered to the Boy Scouts, the Red Cross, and other wholesome quasi-publics.  At least until 1953, when Hoover began to fear the senator’s sloppiness, the FBI supplied Joseph McCarthy’s Permanent Investigations Subcommittee with everything it could: public praise; back-channel advice; prejudicial information on enemies culled from Bureau archives; and a former FBI agent, Don Surine, to serve as chief investigator.  In the McCarthy who fell from grace, Hoover met an anticommunist more media-drunk than himself, and did not enjoy the reflected glare.  Even HUAC (the House Un-American Activities Committee), the director wrote, seemed to care more about headlines than national security.[4]  Ironically, thanks to Hoover’s relative discretion, his term as McCarthyism’s comptroller-in-chief only enhanced his appeal.  Buoyed by popular anticommunism, public esteem for the director reached its apex, envisioning an untouchable among law-and-order untouchables.  In the appraisal of one contributor to Kids Letters to the F.B.I. (1966), a little classic of youthful obedience, Jesus was indeed a “hero,” but “Mr. Hoover has done more toward helping to keep down juvenile delinquency, as well as other crimes.”[5]

Hoover was worshipped less earnestly by the minority of American liberals revolted by McCarthyism in any guise, their discontent galvanizing unprecedented open criticism of the Bureau—and unprecedented Bureau pushback.  The publication of Max Lowenthal’s The Federal Bureau of Investigation (1950), the first vigorously unauthorized history of the institution, is a cautionary object lesson.  Over 500 pages and a decade in the making, released within weeks of the Bureau’s first “Ten Most Wanted” list, Lowenthal’s book mounts a painstaking, lawyerly case against the FBI’s aura as “the infallible watchdog of American security and liberty.”[6]  The Hoover Bureau’s appetite for “rumors, suspicions, and gossip,” Lowenthal concludes, “is the realization of the fear expressed” by the FBI’s earliest skeptics, the congressmen who confronted President Theodore Roosevelt with the worry that the Bureau “might some day adopt practices habitual to political police systems in Europe but abhorrent to a democracy.”[7]  Lowenthal, an ex-Supreme Court clerk, onetime Congressional aide, and friend of President Harry Truman, derived little comfort from the quiet approval of his indictment at the White House: word alone of his book’s appearance attracted a prodigious Bureau counterattack.  Wilting under fire, sales of The Federal Bureau of Investigation failed to break 7,500, disappointing distinguished independent publisher William Sloane.[8]  Considered in relation to the history of FBI literary surveillance, however, the book thrived as the inspiration for the intensified Bureau counterliteratures of the 1950s.   

 Spy-Critics and Editorial Informants

Hoover, furious that his spy-critics had failed to pick up scent of Lowenthal’s history prior to an advanced notice in Publishers Weekly, plunged into a firing mood even before the book’s release.  “Mr. Hoover, if I had known this book was going to be published,” swore Louis Nichols, head of the Bureau’s Crime Records division, “I’d have thrown my body between the presses and stopped it.”[9]  Nichols mended fences with Hoover by supervising an instant refutation.  Within the Seat of Government, the Bureau’s modestly nicknamed D.C. headquarters, his prebuttal of Lowenthal’s charges planted the seeds for the most successful Bureau self-narrations of the 1950s: Hoover’s own Masters of Deceit (1958), two million paperbacks sold, and journalist Don Whitehead’s rose-tinted The FBI Story (1956), written inside a Bureau office furnished with hand-picked case summaries.  Beyond FBI headquarters, Walter Winchell and other Bureau-friendly columnists immediately adopted the prebuttal’s talking points, their objections reinforced in planted editorials (e.g., “Smearing the FBI,” charged the New York Herald Tribune).  Head agents at the Bureau’s field offices were directed to discourage bookstores from stocking Lowenthal’s title.  One up-and-comer proposed that G-Men snatch copies from public libraries, but was shot down with the news that stolen works might be replaced, increasing sales.  Lowenthal’s home was kept under observation; during one of his out-of-town business trips, his wife awoke to a 3:00 a.m. call from a team of FBI agents.  Bureau allies denounced him as a treasonous New Deal relic on the floor of Congress, and dragged him before an executive session of HUAC.[10]  A Nation piece with an immortal title, “The FBI Reviews a Book,” called attention to the mystery of the session’s transcript, publicly released, without clarification, “just one day before Mr. Lowenthal’s book went on sale.”[11] 

All of this extraordinary literary-critical activity indeed took place in advance of The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s printing.  “Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not,” Curt Gentry remarks, “the page proofs of the book vanished from the motorcycle sidecar of a messenger en route from the printer to the publisher.”[12] Absolutely non-coincidental in the Lowenthal affair is the Cold War expansion of FBI counterliterature into an agenda I call “Total Literary Awareness.”  Half a century before the Pentagon’s controversial Total Information Awareness (TIA) program, an abandoned effort to aggregate and “data-mine” all electronic predictions of terrorist activity, the Bureau’s “TLA” program sought precocious knowledge of all published threats to the state—first among them threats to the state of the Bureau’s reputation.  Cold War Hooverism’s hyperactive counterliterary meddling thus did not end with the bowdlerization of State Department libraries abroad, enforced by Bureau crony Roy Cohn during a 1953 tour of European capitals.  Back in the U.S.A., the impulse was to know enough of domestic publishing to screen suspicious books before they reached the shelves.  Despite its predictable failure to regulate the whole of U.S. literature, TLA equipped Bureau spy-criticism with newfound reach and muscle.

Some of the tentacles of Total Literary Awareness have been unraveled by literary historian Claire Culleton.  Delving into the Bureau’s 234-page file on commercial publisher Henry Holt, she uncovers evidence of Hoover’s “custodial relationship” with the pillars of the Cold War book market.[13] Holt employees sent the Bureau all manner of literary foreknowledge, from book proposals to page proofs to advance copies—so much material that an editorial staffer wrote Hoover with the news that “I am beginning to feel like a member of the FBI myself.”[14]  Predictably, Hoover and his ghostwriters were asked to provide blurbs for The Hidden Russia and other anticommunist titles.  Just as often, however, the Bureau was granted uncommon rights of pre-refusal.  Holt editor Milt Hill, for example, asked FBI contacts for “advice as to whether we should do or not” a McCarthy autobiography, receiving a green light since it “would be a friendly book from a Bureau standpoint.”[15]  Books less kind to the Bureau were rejected with its help at Holt and other firms.  The manuscript of Fred Cook’s muckraking The FBI Nobody Knows, eventually published in 1964, was refused at Random House (home of The FBI Story) after publisher Bennett Cerf shredded professional ethics by forwarding a copy to Hoover.  Editorial informants such as Cerf, recruited in the wake of the Lowenthal embarrassment, made it practically impossible to criticize the FBI through a major New York publisher without costly delay.  With the FBI fed the minutes of editorial board meetings at Time and Life, Fortune and Look, the Reader’s Digest and the Daily Worker, points along the full spectrum of U.S. print culture were opened to Bureau pre-awareness.  To adapt Louis Nichols, there was now most always a body poised to throw itself between the presses.

Critical nonfiction was the initial target of the Bureau’s Cold War campaign to impose itself between unflattering portraiture and the reading public.  Yet the FBI’s individual author files of the period, only recently extracted through FOIA requests, demonstrate that Total Literary Awareness also kept a special watch over African-American drama, fiction, and poetry.

Judging from Lorraine Hansberry’s file, for example, the FBI refused to believe that black playwrights deserved to choose who evaluated their trial runs. Just escaped from the University of Wisconsin to freelance work in New York City, Hansberry’s otherwise overlooked contributions to small labor papers inspired a 1952 security check, the trigger of a 1,052-page file that closed only with copies of her premature obituary.[16]  Exposing its sensitivity to young literary talent, the FBI leapt into coordinated national action when hearing of her intent to attend a Montevideo peace conference in 1953.  The “Washington field office is requested to examine the files of the Passport Division of the United States Department of State,” Hansberry’s file attests, “in an effort to obtain all available background material on the subject, any derogatory information contained therein, and a photograph and complete description…” (30 Mar. 1953).  The Milwaukee office unproductively rummaged through her Wisconsin transcripts for other crumbs of scandal, while Chicago discovered her family’s prominence in the city’s racially fractured real estate business (14 Mar. 1953).  New York revealed her independent employment as an “instructor of a class in Literature of the Negro” at the progressive Jefferson School, and traced her residence to Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, this literature’s downtown office since the Harlem Renaissance (18 Dec. 1953).  For all their prescient interest, none of the Bureau’s field offices predicted Hansberry’s posthumous emergence as a voice of lesbian feminism, uncharacteristically missing the implication of her draft play for Sappho, Andromeda the Thief.  Neither could they envision her dismissal by Black Power nationalists for sins of “leftwing accommodation to middle-class ideology.”[17]  What Black Power revisionist Peniel Joseph describes as her “unusual biography—an upper-middle-class black woman who abandoned a comfortable existence for identification with the racially and politically oppressed”—in fact struck the Bureau as a typical profile of present danger.[18]

By the mid-1950s, male gazers at the New York branch of the Bureau were familiar enough with Hansberry’s everyday life and looks to record her adoption of an “‘Italian’ cut” hairstyle (11 Oct. 1956).  The Bureau’s premature discovery of A Raisin in the Sun, the play that made Hansberry famously young and gifted, was par for this course.  In 1958, a year before Raisin’s Broadway debut, Hoover ordered New York’s Special Agent in Charge to “[p]romptly conduct [a] necessary investigation in an effort to establish whether the play…is in any way controlled or influenced by the Communist Party and whether it in any way follows the Communist line” (5 Sept. 1958).  No academic lectures were required for the Bureau to expect the militancy beneath Hansberry’s crossover appeal: her Security Index listing was preparation enough (5 Sept. 1958).  The file ingredients that follow Hoover’s edict approximate the contents of a drama fanatic’s scrapbook.  Clipped reviews and playbills track Raisin’s try-outs through the provinces, documenting the conquest of American theater one East Coast city at a time.  Reports from the New Haven Register and Journal-Courier on the play’s Connecticut run are carefully cut and pasted, but the highest aim is seeing a trial production in the flesh (23 Jan. 1959).  Since the Bureau’s New Haven office failed to witness the show for itself, “Philadelphia [was] requested to designate an Agent [sic] to attend in order that a true picture of the play’s content can be obtained and properly analyzed” (29 Jan. 1959).  When the FBI’s long experience in deciphering Afro-modernism met the rushed demands of Total Literary Awareness, only a Bureau-trained reader was thought up to the task.

The particular reader selected, a Philadelphia-based special agent whose name has been lost to FOIA censorship, fulfilled his assignment at the Walnut Theater with an unflappably intelligent four-page review.  Sustaining interpretive positions while describing narrative arcs, volunteering minutely witty descriptions of characters and costumes, this talented ghostreader bids for a place in the upper echelon of FBI English heads.  The receptive insight of his prose—it would receive a non-inflated A in many college classes—flowed from inspiration beyond the call of police duty.  With its swelling existentialist vocabulary, the reviewer’s sketch of Beneatha Younger, a super-articulate Hansberry character searching for what he calls “a means of self-expression and self-identification,” doubles as a confession of unfulfilled literary need (5 Feb. 1959).  A kind of G-Man Flaubert, the reviewer might as well have admitted that Mademoiselle Younger, c’est moi.  The demands of TLA precognition, this is to suggest, did not always prevent FBI readers from succumbing to the spell of black expression.  

Hansberry’s Bureau reviewer begins with reference to a plot summary previously published in the Philadelphia Daily News, the Bureau-file equivalent of dismissive in-text citation.  What comes after, the agent’s independent analysis of Hansberry’s work, will not respect the obvious.  Hoover’s orders to measure Raisin’s debts to Communism are thus dispensed with swiftly.  “The play contains no comments of any nature about Communism as such,” the reader certifies, “but deals essentially with negro [sic] aspirations, the problems inherent in their efforts to advance themselves, and varied attempts at arriving at solutions” (5 Feb. 1959). The review takes flight when Party lines give way to the intersection of racial and dramatic tensions: “The contrasting proposals for solutions are set up through the character delineations of the widowed mother, her son, and her daughter.  The specific bone of contention which is the central theme of the plot is the sum of $10,000 received by the widow as a result of the death of her husband” (5 Feb. 1959). Themes, plots, and bones might be conflated, but the Bureau reviewer insightfully sketches the interiors of Beneatha, the Younger family’s quick-witted medical-student daughter, a character searching for an attractive partner in racial uplift “under the amused and tolerant scrutiny of the other women”; George Murchison, her assimilationist suitor captured by his “over narrow, over emphatic ivy league [sic] clothes”; and Joseph Asagai, his principled Nigerian rival, quickened by anticolonial ambition to “overthrow the rule of European nations, find political freedom…and make [his] own future” (5 Feb. 1959).  “Africa,” continues the reviewer, “is a matter which is only dimly comprehended by the other members of the family”—this lack of understanding matching the mostly white audience at the Walnut, only a handful of whom “appeared to dwell on the propaganda messages” (5 Feb. 1959).  As it happened, New York audiences were little more attuned to Raisin’s layers of Pan-Africanism, muted by Hansberry’s South Side Chicago setting, the familiar scene of domestic naturalism’s native sons.  A mysterious Philadelphia FBI agent may thus have gotten first at the play’s budding black internationalism, encouraged by TLA policy to forward the news to Washington prior to Hansberry’s Broadway debut.  Communism as such was a welcome absence in Raisin, this police-reviewer assumed, yet the play’s love match between Nigeria and black Chicago required early exposure to federal authorities, then prioritizing U.S.-Africa policy under the Eisenhower administration’s new Bureau of African Affairs.


Total Literary Awareness

Dozens of less thoughtful FBI agents spent workdays in the grip of TLA investigations, packing the personal files of Afro-modernists only suspected of literary intent.  Again and again, Bureau critics provided emerging black writers of the Cold War with some of their earliest notices, often fault-finding and hidden from productive use, yet impressed by any sign of professional development.  The 1951 file of Alice Childress, for example, Hansberry’s sister playwright in the orbit of Paul Robeson’s journal Freedom, reflects an FBI agent’s study in the Billy Rose Theatre Collection of the New York Public Library.  Knowing that Childress had been trained in drama “since her Junior High School days”—she was a skilled enough actress to receive a Tony Award nomination in 1944—this Bureau researcher applied the scholarly lessons of FBI archivism, sifting through Billy Rose catalogs for hints of original plays of her own (20 March 1951).[19]  Lance Jeffers’ file of 1949, 187 pages devoted to a poet Trudier Harris dubs a “black nationalist without a movement,”[20] prepares for publications to come by combing every credit hour of his creative writing major.  As of 1950, a Bureau memo reveals, Jeffers was “working toward a Bachelor of Science degree in writing” at Columbia, “and his schedule consists of 20 points composed of English, composition, and French” (26 Jan. 1950).[21]  “To date,” reported an anxious agent, hovering like a tuition-paying parent, “he has earned 69 points of the necessary 124 points which are needed for graduation” (26 Jan. 1950).  In the instance of Calvin Hernton’s 1955 file, meanwhile, the Bureau confessed its interest in books with no chance of reaching print.  Tracking the cofounder of Umbra magazine even while an M.A. candidate at Fisk, Bureau prereaders took seriously the typically self-admiring efforts of a student novelist (male-bohemian sub-genre) to write what he knew best.  Unassumingly titled The Recognition of Man, Hernton’s manuscript-in-progress is described as “the story of two individuals who are attending a college or university.  One of these individuals is principally interested in exploitation of any persons over whom he can gain control, while the other is a poor but hard working [sic] character who is attempting to get an education, and who takes occasion throughout the book to explain to the other character the difference between right and wrong as concerns the various phases of life which the average person will encounter” (14 March 1955).[22]  Interviewed by a Bureau team despite this off-putting thumbnail, Hernton pled artistic myopia, promising he was “not interested in Communism and [advising] that his principal interest is in his writing and because of this he does not know what goes on around him” (14 March 1955).  Prereading even more ghostly materials occupied the agents assigned the case of Julian Mayfield in 1954, the year the actor-novelist relocated to Puerto Rico.  After observing that “the subject stayed in his house most of the time and appeared to occupy much of his time by typing,” the hunt was on to discover the written results (30 Nov. 1955).[23]  Though it failed to learn precisely “what material the subject was typing” in Naranjito, the FBI lingered close enough to hear literary sounds from Mayfield’s rooms until 1974, his novels The Hit (1957), The Long Night (1958), and The Grand Parade (1961) paving his way to service as a speechwriter for Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s founding head of state (30 Nov. 1955).  The CIA, for its part, took an interest in Mayfield sensitive enough to be censored in full, “pursuant to an Executive Order,” even today.[24]           

Better established Afro-modernists, first publications under their belts, also faced TLA speedreading, the greater intensity of the chase signaling their graver threat.  Author-critic J. Saunders Redding, investigated by the Bureau from 1953 to 1968, managed to produce To Make a Poet Black (1939), a landmark social history of African-American literature, without Bureau pre-knowledge.  The success of his post-passing novel Stranger and Alone (1950), however, left him with jealous acquaintances willing to talk to the FBI, nameless cronies prone to recommending “that any writing or lecturing done by the applicant be reviewed before being presented” (27 Feb. 1953).[25]  The need for such vigilance stemmed not from Redding’s hedged attraction to Communism, but from the ambiguous politics of his passionate intensity, the product of an artistic temperament supposedly marinated in racial grievance.  “[A] person who is very emotional and high-strung,” these “traits come out in his writings, which deal with the disadvantages and handicaps of being a Negro,” and are thus subject to interpretation “in a very different light than the author may have intended to impart” (27 Feb. 1953).  Willard Motley’s file, a toxic amalgam of Bureau fascinations with black cosmopolitanism and black queerness, nears its 1967 conclusion with news of the novelist’s withering life in Mexico, stranded abroad by the homosexuality “provisions…of the Immigration and Nationality Act” (18 Mar.1954).[26]  “[G]one into full retirement,” dependent on the income “from the paper-back edition of ‘Let No Man Write My Epitaph’ [sic],” he is said “to keep a group of young boys about him and only spasmodically works on a new book” (7 Mar. 1961).  Motley’s writing in its “raceless” prime attracted vigorous forms of TLA scrutiny.  A confidential report accurately revealed that Motley’s second book, a novel “about soldiers home from the wars and tentatively titled ‘They Fished All Night’ is being gestated on an Oregon ranch” (18 Mar. 1954).  Surveillance of Motley’s usual literary neighborhood in Chicago followed an informant’s hands-on account of the making of Knock on Any Door (1947), the bestselling portrait of an Italian altar boy-turned-gangster: “the story contains certain passages describing in minute detail a homosexual act….  [I]t would be rather difficult to depict in such graphic style an act which had not been experienced by the narrator” (18 Mar. 1954).  The queer milieu of Motley’s work hours presented not only sexual opportunities for the author, concluded another source, but also “personality portraits for projection in his writings, much [sic] of which deal with sociological problems and adjustment” (18 Mar. 1954).  Slumming through the Motley file, Total Literary Awareness plunged the Bureau into Chicago’s urban interzone, a district where social fictions sprang from risk-taking sex able to dodge immediate policing.

The Invisible Censor

Not every Afro-modernist file initiated in the long McCarthy era—the busiest period in the history of Bureau counterliterature—opens with fingerprints of the FBI’s post-Lowenthal resolve.  Given the sheer number of these files, twenty-two in all, holes in the TLA blanket should be expected.  Ralph Ellison’s file, opened in 1950, busied itself with the security challenges of his White House visits and American Academy in Rome fellowships (early drafts of Invisible Man featuring the FBI did not return all of the Bureau’s relative kindness). Shirley Graham Du Bois (her file created in 1950), Lonne Elder III (1954), Frank London Brown (1955), and writer-cartoonist Ollie Harrington (1951), his dossier active into the twenty-first century, were pursued as garden-variety unionists or Communists before their artistic ambitions assumed equal billing.  Black Beat Bob Kaufman (1950), a radical “of the waterfront” rumored to have been “expelled from the CP for degeneracy,” received much the same treatment (21 Jun. 1956).[27]  William Gardner Smith (1951), Ollie Harrington’s fellow expatriate Francophile, was recognized as the author of the novel The Last of the Conquerors (1948), yet initially sought for Socialist Workers Party membership (U.S., Federal, Smith, 5 May 1951).[28]  The black nationalist monument The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual (1967) was eventually purchased for the Bureau library, but author Harold Cruse (1950) was first recruited as an undercover Communist Party informant (he proved willing to name names of onetime co-members, but nothing more) (U.S., Federal, Cruse, 26 Nov. 1956).  Hoyt Fuller’s (1954), Amiri Baraka’s (1957), and James Baldwin’s (1958) files took shape and weight only in the 1960s, and are most accurately measured as documents of that turbulent moment.

Afro-modernist files of the era of Hooverism nevertheless establish TLA as the distinctive Cold War contribution to the stockpile of Bureau counterliteratures.  Searching high and low for word of texts scorning the FBI’s height of popular support, these files suggest that the accelerated assimilation of postwar African-American writing invited the application of post-Lowenthal techniques to imaginative literature.  Heeding the upbeat future of black drama, fiction, and poetry, three cultural “shock troops of the modern civil rights movement,”[29] the Bureau moved to anticipate the course of American print culture in creative realms beyond its journalistic enemies list.  A new strain of criminological knowledge emerged—data on the intent to fantasize sedition—as G-Men listened for typewriters through keyholes.  The presence of TLA at the primal scene of literary invention may seem a gloomy milestone in the Bureau’s serial encroachment on black authorship.  In this installment, police power claws at the door to composition, the first and most autonomous of the social processes (writing, editing, printing, publishing) contemporary editorial theory claims are actually responsible for the authorizing of texts.  If, as John K. Young argues, white “control of the means of production” of black books reveals the difference race makes for “apparently universal descriptions of the relationship between the author and the public,”[30] then what is revealed by Hooverism’s dash to survey black manuscripts before they sought publishers of any color?  Under TLA, critic Addison Gayle Jr.’s famous figure of the “invisible censor, white power,” assumed material form, incarnating the black writer’s racialized self-doubt as a federal interloper, a state spook who sat beside the creative “sanctuary of [the] private room.”[31]  Synchronized with the indexing of African-American authors for possible arrest, TLA thus dogged Afro-modernism with the prospect of cradle-to-grave supervision.  This prospect was wholly realized hardly ever, of course.  TLA, conceived in response to a memorable failure of Bureau preknowledge, most often conceded its imperfect origins in practice.  A Raisin in the Sun might be preread insightfully, for example, but could not be stopped in its tracks for Broadway.  The play was stalked on its trial run, in fact, because of the Bureau’s ineffectual knowledge of its prestigious destination.  Here, Total Literary Awareness was incompletely totalizing, and the surrounding Cold War “containment culture” was more leaky than advertised.[32]  Even then, however, TLA’s jarring extension of Bureau counterliterature to the point of literary production left tracks sufficiently deep to inspire Afro-modernism’s next generation, Black Arts dissenters who burned to beat state interference to creation’s starting line.



[1]  Ellen Schrecker, Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998), 203.

[2]  Ibid., 203. 

[3]  Ibid., 212.

[4]  Ibid., 215.

[5]  Bill Adler, ed., Kids’ Letters to the F.B.I. Illustrated by Arnold Roth (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1966), unpaginated.

[6]  Max Lowenthal, The Federal Bureau of Investigation (New York: William Sloane, 1950), front matter.

[7]  Ibid., 465.

[8]  Curt Gentry, J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets (New York: W. W. Norton, 1991), 387.

[9]  Ibid., quoted, 386.

[10]   Ibid., 386-7.

[11]  Ibid., quoted, 86.

[12]  Ibid., 386.

[13]  Claire A. Culleton, “Extorting Henry Holt and Co.: J. Edgar Hoover and the Publishing Industry,”  Modernism on File: Writers, Artists, and the FBI, 1920–1950, ed. Claire A. Culleton and Karen Leick (New York: Palgrave, 2008), 237.

[14]  Ibid., quoted, 239.

[15] Ibid., quoted, 244-45.

[16]  United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, Lorraine Hansberry file obtained under provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. Assorted documents dated 21 July 1952 to 22 January 1965. Internal case file no. 100-107297. Hereafter cited parenthetically by date of entry.

[17]  Harold Cruse, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual (New York: William Morrow, 1967), 267.

[18]  Peniel E. Joseph, Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America (New York: Henry Holt, 2006), 26-27.

[19]  United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, Alice Childress file obtained under provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. Assorted documents dated 11 April 1951 to [?] 1957. Internal case file no. 100-379156. Hereafter cited parenthetically by date of entry.

[20]  Trudier Harris, “Lance Jeffers,” in The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, ed. William L. Andrews, Frances Smith Foster, and Trudier Harris (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 397. 

[21]  United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, Lance Jeffers file obtained under provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. Assorted documents dated 8 February 1949 to 15 July 1966. Internal case file no. 100-359726. Hereafter cited parenthetically by date of entry. 

[22]  United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, Calvin Hernton file obtained under provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. Assorted documents dated 14 March 1955 to 29 August 1969. Internal case file no. 100-417598. Hereafter cited parenthetically by date of entry.

[23]  United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, Julian Mayfield file obtained under provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. Assorted documents dated 16 August 1954 to 6 September 1974. Internal case file no. 100-412872. Hereafter cited parenthetically by date of entry.

[24]  Dolores M. Nelson, Information and Privacy Coordinator, Central Intelligence Agency, letter to author, 26 June 2009. 

[25]  United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, J. Saunders Redding file obtained under provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. Assorted documents dated 13 February 1953 to 15 August 1968. Internal case file no. 123-14868. Hereafter cited parenthetically by date of entry. 

[26]  United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, Willard Motley file obtained under provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. Assorted documents dated 16 July 1951 to 12 October 1972. Internal case file no. 100-382070. Hereafter cited parenthetically by date of entry.

[27]  United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bob Kaufman file obtained under provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. Assorted documents dated 31 January 1950 to 18 August 1970. Internal case file no. 100-366937. Hereafter cited parenthetically by date of entry.

[28]  United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, William Gardner Smith file obtained under provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. Assorted documents dated 5 May 1951 to 7 November 1974. Internal case file no. 100-379969. Hereafter cited parenthetically by date of entry.

[29]  John Dittmer, Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 1.

[30]  John K. Young, Black Writers, White Publishers: Marketplace Politics in Twentieth-Century African American Literature (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2006), 19. 

[31]  Addison Gayle, Jr., introduction to The Black Aesthetic, ed. Addison Gayle, Jr. 1971 (Garden City, NY: Anchor-Doubleday, 1972), xx.

[32]  Alan Nadel, Containment Culture: American Narratives, Postmodernism, and the Atomic Age (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), 5.


Note: Versions of this essay will appear in American Literature and Culture in an Age of Cold War, edited by Steven Belletto and Daniel Grausam (forthcoming from University of Iowa Press) and in William Maxwell’s own book, FB Eyes: How J. Edgar Hoover’s Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature (forthcoming from Princeton University Press). 

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