‘Discredit, disrupt and destroy’: UC Berkeley Library acquires FBI records of surveillance of Black leaders

1960s: Days of Rage

Members of the Black Panthers lined up at a Free Huey (Newton) rally in DeFremery Park in Oakland.

“The status quo — hallowed by hate, sanctioned by Jim Crow — was beginning to crack. Behind the scenes, J. Edgar Hoover’s Federal Bureau of Investigation was keeping watch. In 1967, the FBI quietly unleashed a covert surveillance operation targeting “subversive” civil rights groups and Black leaders, including the Black Panther Party, Martin Luther King Jr., Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, and many others. The objective, according to an FBI memo: to ‘expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize’ the radical fight for Black rights — and Black power. Details of that sabotage plaster internal FBI records, with thousands of pages scattered across a medley of databases. Now, the UC Berkeley Library is working to put those pieces together. In May, just before the movement for Black lives cascaded over the planet, the…

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