Music fans weren’t the only ones following Aretha Franklin’s journey in the ’60s and ’70s. According to recently unsealed documents, the Federal Bureau of Investigation kept a close watch on the iconic singer over the years due to her ties to the civil rights movement.
The discovery was made four years following Franklin’s death in 2018 after reporter Jen Dize submitted a Freedom of Information Act request, making the late singer’s 270-page file public, Courage News reported. Dize noted on Twitter that although the documents were incomplete, they demonstrated “repeated and disgusting suspicion” of the “Ever Changing Times” singer, “her work and activists around her.”
Dize broke down lengthy filing in several posts which mention Franklin’s relationship with members of the movement, including her 1967 and 1968 performances at Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference meetings, described as a “communist infiltration.” As well as the late singer’s alleged role in a memorial show in honor of Dr. King that was set to take place days following his assassination. The performance eventually never took place.
Franklin’s father, Clarence “C.L.” Franklin’s public discussion of China as a growing power in the ’60s was also noted. Records reportedly claimed that “SCLC leadership has taken a ‘hate America and ‘pro communist’ line, which the mass of Negroes will not recognize but which they will blindly follow.”
Franklin, Sammy Davis Jr., Marlon Brando, Mahalia Jackson, and The Supremes were marked among those accused of having “supported militant black power concept and most have been in forefront of various civil rights movements.”
“[The concert] would provide emotional spark which could ignite racial disturbance in this area.” A similar comment was made about her performance at a fundraiser for the Angela Davis Legal Defense Fund.
A 1973 observation Dize shared showed, “There were frequent attempts to connect Aretha Franklin & other notable Black figures to anything they deemed nefarious. This FBI doc follows up on claim that she was connected to the Black Liberation Army/any ‘radical’ movement. The finding was that there was no evidence.”
However, the writer also mentioned that it is “important to note that many documents in these files are missing or remain heavily redacted.”
Still, many critics questioned why the records were sought after. Many shared their disdain for the treatment of Franklin, including one Twitter user who wrote, “isn’t it funny how the FBI can keep black activist under observation but can’t seem to do the same for these white supremacy groups that are running roughshod through the landscape of America.”
Another person added, “Excuse me. I wonder who are you to the Franklin family? Out of respect for their dignity, humanity & grief, did you speak with the family before suddenly sharing all of this terrible information about their dead mother online?”