James Baldwin: The FBI File
William J. Maxwell
Praise for James Baldwin: The FBI File:
“Maxwell presents the actual documentation in chronological order, using brief discussions to provide valuable context. . . He adeptly curates the strange hoard of documentation, but the primary sources will be most appreciated by completists. An unsettling demonstration of how a paranoid, reactionary government can treat significant artists.”—Kirkus
“This compendium offers an unquestionably unique look into the life of one of America’s most esteemed thinkers, whose work has seen a resurgence as a centerpiece of the Black Lives Matter movement.”—Publishers Weekly
Decades before Black Lives Matter returned James Baldwin to prominence, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI considered the Harlem-born author James Baldwin the most powerful broker between black art and black power.Baldwin’s 1,884-page FBI file, covering the period from 1958 to 1974, was the largest compiled on any African American artist of the Civil Rights era. This collection of once-secret documents, never before published in book form, captures the FBI’s anxious tracking of Baldwin’s writings, phone conversations, and sexual habits—and Baldwin’s defiant efforts to spy back at Hoover and his G-men.
James Baldwin: The FBI Filereproduces more than one hundred original FBI records, selected by the noted literary historian William J. Maxwell, whose award-winning bookF.B. Eyes: How J. Edgar Hoover’s Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature brought renewed attention to bureau surveillance. Maxwell also provides an introduction exploring Baldwin’s enduring relevance in the time of Black Lives Matter along with running commentaries that orient the reader and offer historical context, making this book a revealing look at a crucial slice of the American past—and present.