Declassified Files Reveal That Aretha Franklin Was Monitored By FBI

A 270-page document on Aretha Franklin shows that the FBI extensively tracked the 18-time Grammy Award winner throughout her career.

The FBI has unsealed its once-classified file on the late Aretha Franklin. Spanning 270 pages, the document includes reports from over a dozen states and follows Franklin’s contributions to the Civil Rights Movement, including her friendships with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and political activist Angela Davis.

On Wednesday (September 7), journalist Jenn Dize uncovered the FBI’s files on Franklin via Twitter after requesting them under the Freedom of Information Act. In August 2018, Franklin died at her home in Detroit, Michigan. She was 76.

The file also includes death threats against Franklin and a potential copyright infringement lawsuit that arised from a Yahoo! Groups message board in 2005. Although the case never went to trial, it involved a self-proclaimed “anti-fanatic” who sold pirated CDs and DVDs of Franklin’s performances.

The document alleged that Franklin was connected to “Black extremists” and groups, naming the 10-year anniversary celebration of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference held at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Dr. King was assistant pastor.

Later in the files were allegations that Franklin was involved with the Black Liberation Army, which was discredited from a redacted source who claimed that “to the best of his knowledge, Aretha Franklin has never been associated with the black radical movement.”

The FBI concluded that “in view of the fact there is no evidence of involvement by Miss Franklin in BLA activities and in view of her fame as a singer, it is felt that it would not be in the best interests of the Bureau to attempt to interview her.”

Read the full declassified file on “The Queen of Soul” here.

Jaelani Turner-Williams

Jaelani Turner-Williams is a contributing news writer for Okayplayer with bylines at Billboard, MTV News, NYLON, Recording Academy and more. Read her mind on Twitter at @hernameisjae.

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Jaelani Turner-Williams

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