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The FBI Monitored Aretha Franklin For Years

The federal agency kept track of Aretha Franklin to determine how involved she was with protest movements.
The FBI Monitored Aretha Franklin For Years
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The FBI was really not putting RESPECT on Aretha’s name!

According to a 270-page document, the Federal Bureau of Investigation spent years monitoring the ‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin, “trying to gauge how involved she was with the civil rights movement, communism and the Black Power movement,” NPR reports.

As per NPR, Franklin:

was monitored ahead of several performances and attendances she made for civil rights groups, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, whose first president was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The agency–which tracked numerous activists from the Civil Rights and Black Power movements– also kept a close eye on Aretha’s father, Rev. C.L. Franklin, who was a close friend of Dr. King.

The FBI’s tactics have continued to be disclosed over the years through Freedom of Information Act requests. It’s been discovered that COINTELPRO, their counterintelligence program, surveilled Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton beginning when he was just 14 years old, as well as other members of the organization; Martin Luther King, Jr.; Malcolm X; Elijah Muhammed and many others.

According to the ACLU, COINTELPRO also “targeted numerous non-violent protest groups and political dissidents with illegal wiretaps, warrantless physical searches and an array of other dirty tricks.”

In memos dating across multiple years, the FBI mentioned Aretha Franklin and questioned her associations. At the time, she was invited to rallies and other public gatherings to advance racial justice.

Targeting Black activism has been an ongoing practice. Today, the FBI has singled out protestors fighting against police violence as “Black Identity Extremists,” and our post- 9/11 world has enhanced the tactics used to surveil people of color.

Last year, Congressman Bobby Rush introduced legislation that would disclose COINTELPRO records. As Rep. Rush stated in 2021:

It is high time that the American people know about the odious and inhumane legacy of J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO operation and its assault on our nation’s civil liberties. COINTELPRO was spying on American citizens.  Anyone who took a political position against the status quo, anyone who wanted to make America better was subject to being penalized, investigated — and in the case of my friend Fred Hampton, assassinated — by the official legal arm of the federal government. As a victim of COINTELPRO, I want to know, with honesty, with clarity, and with no redactions, the full extent of the FBI’s nefarious operations.