The FBI Tracked Aretha Franklin For Years During The Civil Rights Movement

black and white photo of aretha franklin staring straight ahead
Briona Lamback
October 24, 2022

Aretha Franklin was a beloved figure in our community who still has us shouting R-E-S-P-E-C-T to this day. So why was the FBI on her so heavily?

Franklin was down for us, and THEY couldn't stand it. Like whites who think athletes should just "shut up and dribble," they didn't like her outwardly supporting the movement. 

She refused to be quiet about our liberation struggle for white comfort.

A 270-page document is full of death threats, tapped phone calls, and extensive tracking of her relationship with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Angela Davis, whose bail Franklin offered to pay. The document links her to several organizations, including the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army.

They also linked Franklin to Roosevelt Bernard Douglas, who worked to unite Black people globally and later became Dominica's prime minister. They called Douglas a "[B]lack extremist of international note."

The FBI STILL tracks us, and in 2017, they began identifying today's activists as "Black Identity Extremists." They've prioritized surveilling us, but not white supremacists who keep inflicting violence with mass shootings.

To white supremacy, anyone pro-Black is an extremist. They want us to keep quiet and be complicit in the anti-Black world they've built, but we can't stop and won't stop fighting.

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