Newly unsealed documents reveal that the FBI tracked Aretha Franklin because she was involved in the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
A 270-page document shows the FBI paid special attention to the Queen of Soul’s many performances for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference civil rights organization.
The shows for the SCLC took place in Atlanta and Memphis between 1967 and 1968 and were labeled as “communist infiltration” events.
The FBI also tracked a scheduled performance at a Black Panther Party event that Aretha eventually canceled.
“Bobby Seale, Chairman of the Black Panther Party, has directed the Los Angeles Black Panther Party to initiate plans for a major rally culminating in free food distribution to the poor black people in Los Angeles,” the document reads. “Source also advised that Gwen Goodloe wanted to contact Negro singing stars Aretha Franklin and Roberta Flack to possibly assist in the event.”
The FBI also linked the 18-time Grammy winner to the Black Liberation Army after reportedly finding Franklin’s address in BLA’s organization documents.
The bureau called the BLA a “quasi-military group composed of small guerrilla units employing the tactics of urban guerrilla warfare against the established order with a view toward achieving revolutionary change in America.” Due to insufficient evidence, the FBI concluded that Franklin’s association with the BLA could not be determined.
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