[SAC Albany, August 25, 1967] - FBI COINTELPRO Against Black Liberation Movement]
AG: So now I'd like to move on to some samples of prose by the Intelligence Agencies. These are documents (retrieved) under the Freedom of Information Act. As background to this, I should say that, in 1960,or (19)62, I don't know what the proper citation is, J.Edgar Hoover got up at, I think the Republican Convention, and said that the three biggest threats to America were "the Communists, the Beatniks, and the egg-heads" (He actually said that - "the egg-heads")
Student: Who are the egg-heads, specifically?
AG: Well, Adlai Stevenson. The...
Student: Adlai Stevenson?
AG: ..eggheads were sort of faggot, pro-Communists, I guess, intellectuals, who didn't do any work and..
AG: Fancy-pants eggheads. "Fancy pants intellectuals" was Joseph McCarthy's phrase, for people who weren't macho enough to want a big army and fight the Communists, or something.
Anyway, so there's always been.. Hoover, apparently, as early as (19)65, there's this Operation Cointel, COINTELPRO - Counter-Intelligence Program - aimed at many many different groups. I don't have much on it but I think it probably included the Beatniks as a formal, organized, Counter-Intelligence matter. I don't have any papers on it, but sooner or later, I think there will be enough research, or research will show, that the FBI, or the Federal Police, the FBI, probably collected as much scandalous information as they could from local newspapers or local police - things like "Bearded Hippie Stabs Grandmother In Iowa Farmhouse", or whatever, and took as many of those stories as they could, and made sure they were circulated all over the United States, to give an image of bearded, unwashed, bed-bug-ridden, hairy, murderous Beatniks. I think that was, actually, literally organized, but I don't have any papers on that to prove it. But there were, on many other groups, vast organizations, on many more overtly political people.. like Hoover was involved in making sure that the charisma of many Black (African-American) writers and organizers and spokesmen were stained. So he went on a giant campaign against LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), Stokely Carmichael, Martin Luther King, Eldridge Cleaver, and anybody, any artist, or anybody, that got mixed up with them.
So here's some papers to begin with on LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka). This is 1970 - the program maybe reached its climax in 1970.
F.B.I. Date 11.13.70 Via Airtel To: The Director of F.B.I. 100-44-8006 From: SAC, Newark - I don't know why the Strategic Command in Newark, Strategic Air Command? no, that's S.A.C - the local FBI office in Newark -
Subject: Co-Intel Pro Black Extremists RM - The following Counter-Intelligence proposal is submitted for consideration. It is recommended that a letter be sent with a Jersey City, New Jersey postmark to LeRoi Jones at 502 Hugh Street, Newark, New Jersey, and the Newark, New Jersey newspapers. Consideration might also be given to wire distribution. It should be signed "Ministry of Information Black Panther Party, Jersey City, New Jersey. The letter should read similarly to the following - "LeRoi Jones, the poet who calls himself Amiri Baraka, is Tom Pig pretending to be a true Black Revolutionary. He asked people not to buy the Black Panther newspaper because he wanted the People's money for himself. Jones uses the People's Liberation Soul Power to line his pockets. His goons threatened Panthers selling papers and people trying to buy them. Now Jones tries to put himself on a throne, like maybe you saw his picture. He fancies himself the reason Ken Gibson got elected Mayor of Newark. Jones had visions of his throne in Newark, then the whole country, then the world. Jones is shoving his Congress of African People idea down the throats of Brothers and Sisters on High Street. He hustles them as religion to make them his slaves. He thinks he's Black Jesus and should be put on his own cross. Even Africans laughed at Baraka's home-made dashikis in New York. When will the Black People of Newark wake up and see Jones - Baraka is just playing his King role and they're just pawns" - In connection with the above suggested letter, a copy should be sent with a return address of 501 High Street, Newark, New Jersey to..[and then it's eliminated, blacked-out, one line blacked-out] through the papers, or even if the papers will not print the letter, as if it were smuggled out of Newark by a loyal C.A.P member within Jones' organization who agrees with this letter. It is pointed out that the conflict between Jones and the Black Panther Party has risen and fallen over a period of years. This letter attempts to take advantage of the current renewed conflict engendered by Jones' anti-Black Panther propaganda to both belittle Jones and to expose the Panthers' resentment of Jones.
AG: Then, from S.A.C. to Newark, let's see.. the answer: "To: S.A.C. Newark From: Director, F.B.I. November 19, 1970 Co-Intel-Pro Black Extremists Racial Matters - "Your Counter-Intelligence proposal regarding Leroi Jones and the Black Panther Party is approved. Ensure that the letter sent can not be traced to the Bureau. Advise the Bureau of all positive results from this proposal. A copy to San Francisco"
And then, "Note" (and on these replies, generally, Hoover's office gives an analysis -
"LeRoi Jones, the Black Extremist poet and playwright who helped elect Kenneth Gibson, the Black Mayor of Newark, New Jersey. has been in conflict with Black Extremist, Black Panther Party for some time. Jones has been known as "the Black Messiah" of the Pan-African Movement in the United States. Newark has proposed a letter to Jones signed Ministry of Information, Black Panther Party, Jersey City, New Jersey, attacking Jones as an Uncle Tom who is using the Black people of Newark for his own purpose. Copies of the letter will also be sent to Newark newspapers and a letter to the Chairman of the Congress of Afrikan People, in which Jones is now active in a leadership role. This proposal will cause disruption not only within Jones' group but also n the Black Panther Party, since Jones has an appreciable following in New Jersey who will resent this statement."
Then from Newark to Washington - "Attached to file a xerox copy of the approved letter sent out on this day to the Newark Evening News and the Newark Star-Ledger, Newark, New Jersey, and to LeRoi Jones, 502 High Street and to the Hudson Dispatch, Jersey City, Union City"
And then the letter read, finally, well, more or less as I read it [Allen reads again, commenting on the erratic punctuation and spelling throughout] - "LeRoi Jones, the poet who calls himself Amiri Baraka, is Tom Pig pretending - comma - to be a true Black Revolutionary - period - He asked people not to buy the Black Panther's newspaper because - comma - he wanted.. - it's real good prose, I mean, it's right from the street! - the People's money for himself - comma - Jones uses the People's money for Liberation Soul Power to line his pockets - period - His goons threatened [t-h-r-e-t-e-n (sic)] Panthers selling papers - comma - and people - [papers comma and people] - trying to buy - [b-y (sic)] - them. Now Jones tries to put himself on a throne, like maybe you saw his picture? He fancies himself he reason Ken Gibson got elected Mayor of Newark. Jones had visions of his throne in Newark, then the whole country, then the world. And so forth..Same thing..
So that was all sent out an done.
Now what's interesting about that - (the) plot-within-the-plot - of course, Jones (Baraka) was a very interesting figure and a great figure, as he was, in the literary world, maybe the precursor of Ed Sanders in terms of literary activity - mimeographed, home-made cultural newspaper and magazine publication. In (19)58-(19)59 (he) had a magazine called Yugen and was hanging around with (Jack) Kerouac and (Gregory) Corso and Peter Orlovsky and myself and Frank O'Hara and Kenneth Koch at the Cedar Bar in New York, and was the one central figure uniting all the different schools of poetry in one magazine (more effectively than Evergreen Review or the Chicago Review, which were also doing that). Plus (he) was uniting all of us to the Black groups, with the Black musicians, like Albert Ayler and Don Cherry (and I think Elvin Jones was around there). (So) he would have parties where Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor would play, and it would be mixed with all the painters, like (Willem) de Kooning and Franz Kline - and (Jack) Kerouac and (Gregory) Corso and myself - and A.B.Spellman, and a whole bunch of Black writers - Plus (Frank) O'Hara, plus people from Partisan Review. So he had the greatest salon in Newark, and it was an era of good feeling and a fantastically organized social scene, resulting in cultural activity that really was powerful, because it was an unbeatable combination - all those people.
When Malcolm X got killed.. Apparently Malcolm X had told Jones (Baraka) that he would have to take over.. In case anything happened to him, Malcolm X himself had told (him) that he would have to take over a certain spiritual or cultural leadership. And (he - Jones/Baraka) at that time was a funny guy, literary, you know, grabbing Peter (Orlovsky)'s cock at parties, and smoking a lot of grass (and even shooting a little junk and lots of cocaine), writing poems that seemed somewhat Beat - a Beat poet but an aesthetic person, and also a student, visiting (a Roshi, who was a) Zen master in New York that Gary Snyder had worked with and trained in English. So (he) was right in the middle of that. And (then), all of a sudden, there was a (the) traumatic assassination of Malcolm X plus threats of assassination on Jones (Baraka), so (he) got completely paranoid and moved away from the White community and began getting scared of them. Then the FBI made all sorts of similar poison-pen letters so that (he) was separated out from the radical group of, I think it was Tom Hayden, who was organizing the SDS (Students For A Democratic Society) in Newark, and so (he) denounced Tom Hayden and further isolated himself. Then (he) got into an involvement with a Black Nationalist theoretician, Ron Karenga in UCLA - (has anybody heard of him? - the US Group, it's called - Ron Karenga of the US Group, UCLA, who were also in a fight with the (Black) Panthers - in fact, several people got murdered, the Panthers, got murdered, at UCLA, by Ron Karenga's US Group). Karenga's view, unlike the (Black) Panthers, and unlike Jones (Baraka)'s previous view, was that the Blacks would have to make it (by) themselves, without any White help, that Black and White cultural mixture was a mistake, that the Blacks had to find their own macho, or their own balls, that White leadership would always betray them, that White honky Liberal leadership would soften the scene, that it was really [as Mao declared it] "power grows out the barrel of a gun", and that you couldn't have "the barrel of the gun" unless you had a unified community, (and) you wouldn't have a unified community unless it was a community of the really oppressed, (and) the only really oppressed people were the Blacks, (so) the Blacks should identify with themselves and not with the White, Liberal, Middle-Class, Hippie, Revolutionary, or White, Communists, and Blacks should identify with African culture, and there should be total separation. Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka) should not talk to Allen Ginsberg. Everything should get really paranoid.
So from 1965-1970 Jones (Baraka) was getting intellectual advisement and ideas of a very brilliant nature like this from Ron Karenga. Then, in December last year (1976), I went to Hollywood to do some Buddhist work, and played at a.. did a show in the nightclub called the Troubadour, and ran into Ronee Blakeley, the singer, (who was the star of the movie, Nashville), who I spent time with on the Rolling Thunder Revue, and she said, which surprised me, that she had been a big radical all though the 'Sixties and (had) hung around with Weathermen and people from the SDS. And it turned out that her boyfriend, who had been fucking her all through the 'Sixties and (her time with) the SDS, had later turned out to be an agent. And then, after he was unmasked as an agent, he kept calling her up, wanting to have more dates. So she, being very intelligent, said, "Well, where is his head, anyway?". She says "yes, I'll go out and find out". So (she meets him and) he took her out to a party, full of FBI agents, and who was there but Ron Karenga! - So I said, "What?" - Then I saw Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones) in January in New York. He had meanwhile changed his view and had become a Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist-Maoist, with the idea that he was wrong in the 'Sixties, actually, that the White-Black oppressed had to work together, that the problem was Capitalism, not race (or that greed, or Capitalism, was not, necessarily, a racial matter, but was an economic problem - so it was a Marxist interpretation). So he was now willing to work with everybody. And I told him and his wife that story about Ronnie Blakeley, and he said, "Yeah, we had some suspicions about that", and his wife said that, long ago, they'd broken with Karenga, thinking that there was something funny about him, (that) he might be an agent. Though, she said that, for five years, they were basically working with him and getting ideas and information and direction (intellectual direction and social direction) from Karenga.
Then I saw in an underground newspaper, a little item from J.Edgar Hoover, (like one of these pages - [Allen points to his Freedom of Information xeroxes]), saying, "Use the US. Group and Ron Karenga as a group to split Black from Black, Black group from Black group" (like Panthers from Jones (Baraka) and Panthers from the US Movement). So, apparently, that group was, so to speak, influencing him (Jones/Baraka), who was like a giant intellectual and poetic and spiritual and cultural leader - he was being influenced by Karenga, who was being influenced by the FBI. And whether or not he was an actual agent...? (because I then went to Les Whitten, who works with Jack Anderson, to see if he had any information, and his information was that Karenga was just a clown, (a) publicity-hound, who would do anything, and who probably would work for the FBI, but was not a paid agent).
So what's the upshot? The upshot is that the entire cultural history of the "Sixties would have to be re-written, because one of the major events of the 'Sixties was the Black/White paranoia, the split of the whole Movement, which was, apparently, engineered by the government. All the radical radicals on the Left were saying, "Right on, bro'! The Blacks are absolutely right". It was, I guess, the white Liberal guilt that made people feel that it was in, not realizing the sensitivity and inhumanity of separating White from Black, or separating brother from brother, or the tearfulness of not being able to relate to Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka) after a while, on a literary scene, if not a social scene.
Investigative Poetics, I think, at this point, would have to go into the whole cultural and social and political and artistic history of the 'Sixties, (which was quite a vast, traumatic, revolutionary time), and re-investigate a great many things that happened of an intellectual-symbolic nature, to find out what was the story behind it. Because a great deal more of it was manipulated than we realize.
[Audio for the above is available here, beginning at approximately sixty-nine-and-a-half-minutes in, and concluding approximately eighty-seven minutes in]