F.B. Eyes

F.B. Eyes

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Few institutions seem more opposed than African American literature and J. Edgar Hoovera€™s white-bread Federal Bureau of Investigation. But behind the scenes the FBIa€™s hostility to black protest was energized by fear of and respect for black writing. Drawing on nearly 14, 000 pages of newly released FBI files, F.B. Eyes exposes the Bureaua€™s intimate policing of five decades of African American poems, plays, essays, and novels. Starting in 1919, year one of Harlema€™s renaissance and Hoovera€™s career at the Bureau, secretive FBI a€œghostreadersa€ monitored the latest developments in African American letters. By the time of Hoovera€™s death in 1972, these ghostreaders knew enough to simulate a sinister black literature of their own. The official aim behind the Bureaua€™s close reading was to anticipate political unrest. Yet, as William J. Maxwell reveals, FBI surveillance came to influence the creation and public reception of African American literature in the heart of the twentieth century. Taking his title from Richard Wrighta€™s poem a€œThe FB Eye Blues, a€ Maxwell details how the FBI threatened the international travels of African American writers and prepared to jail dozens of them in times of national emergency. All the same, he shows that the Bureaua€™s paranoid style could prompt insightful criticism from Hoovera€™s ghostreaders and creative replies from their literary targets. For authors such as Claude McKay, James Baldwin, and Sonia Sanchez, the suspicion that government spy-critics tracked their every word inspired rewarding stylistic experiments as well as disabling self-censorship. Illuminating both the serious harms of state surveillance and the ways in which imaginative writing can withstand and exploit it, F.B. Eyes is a groundbreaking account of a long-hidden dimension of African American literature.... second-rate law schools, a€ organization men willing to tolerate the FBI dress code and other microtyrannies thanks to formative training in ... later pictured combined foppishness and recklessness less appealingly than Fleminga#39;s James Bond.

Title:F.B. Eyes
Author: William J. Maxwell
Publisher:Princeton University Press - 2015-01-04

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