Snoops in the Reading Room
F. B. Eyes: How J. Edgar Hoover's Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature
Publisher: Against the Current
Date Written: 01/01/2016
Year Published: 2016
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX21343
Book review of William J. Maxwell's F. B. Eyes: How J. Edgar Hoover's Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature.
F.B. Eyes tracks the federal snooping in detail: how from 1919 to the mid-1970s, the G-Men compiled dossiers on influential writers; sent informers to take notes on their speeches; threatened to withhold the passports of the most uppity writers (and sometimes did so); enlisted the support of friendly foreign intelligence agencies to monitor expatriate or traveling writers; and intimidated neighbors, friends, relatives and employers of the targeted writers.
By 1972 or so, the use of informers, provocateurs, co-optation and other such means of derailing radicals, especially via the 1967 COINTELPRO operations focused on "Black Nationalist/Hate Groups," had achieved an internal pax americana that has only recently begun to unravel.
The FBI of course targeted nonblack writers too, but of 144 such authors monitored and written up by FBI snoops, Maxwell found only one, Theodore Dreiser, who was known to have been placed on the Custodial Detention list.