Bill Tompkins Aretha Franklin Archive

Aretha Franklin.   Source: Bill Tompkins / Getty

It has been revealed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was investigating Aretha Franklin for 20 years due to her support of the civil rights movement.

A journalist named Jenn Dize received a 270-page file spanning 20 years after requesting access under the Freedom Of Information Act. Those documents show that the Queen of Soul was being tracked due to her association with “Black extremist groups.” In a long thread via Twitter, Dize posted documents that she said show a “repeated and disgusting suspicion of the famed Black singer, her work, and activists around her.”

In 1966, the FBI had infiltrators giving them information about the civil rights movement. In 1967, it was documented that she performed at Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s 10th anniversary. A disruption at one of Franklin’s concerts in 1968 was “swept into discussions of possible racial violence/major urban areas/racial matters,” Dize said.

In 1973, the FBI was relentlessly trying to connect Franklin with the Black Liberation Army and any other Black activists groups that they considered “radical.”  In 1976, it was documented that she performed at an event  for the National United Committee to Free Angela Davis that raised $38,000. Throughout their attempts, the FBI continued to come up empty-handed.

Dize also found that Franklin received many death threats during the 1970s.

In 1974, someone sent her a letter that read:

Dear Aretha…I’m still in charge of you…I’m not to be crossed…you should be…paying me some of my money…evidently your advisors do not know the dangers of neglecting what I’m saying…I would hate to drag [your father] into this.

In 1979, one man threatened to kill her and her family. In the retrieved document, one man threatened to “blow up her house and everyone in it.”

Dize found that in 1971, Aretha Franklin’s move were tracked heavily. The FBI examined her record contract with Atlantic Records “just in case.”



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