It goes without saying that being Black in the 1960s was not easy, and often led to fatal results for those who were outspoken. In a recently declassified FBI file on the late Aretha Franklin, it was revealed that she was extensively tracked by the bureau for her civil rights activism and close relationships with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Angela Davis.
The document, including over 270 pages of information, details that there were death threats against the late singer in addition to negative characterizations of her Southern Christian Leadership Conference performances in the 1960s. They were labeled “communist infiltration” events, and the memorial concert at the Atlanta Braves stadium was specifically cited as it “would provide emotional spark which could ignite racial disturbance.”
With regards to Angela Davis, she was noted as “facing murder-kidnapping charges in California” and a concert sponsored by the National United Committee with the goal of freeing Angela Davis was being held by “an organization founded by The Communist Party, United States of America.” Aretha Franklin had offered to post bail on Davis’s behalf, which was not reflected in the FBI file.
Franklin was deemed a potential performer at alleged threatening events, though the characterizations far exceed the number of events that she actually appeared at.
Check out the full declassified FBI file on Aretha Franklin here.