Why Did The FBI Spy On James Baldwin?

Why did the FBI spy on Baldwin? He was a novelist, essayist and critic, one of the most distinguished writers and thinkers of his time. His skin was black, his sexuality fluid, and his politics tended toward the left, a combination that was enough to turn him into a target for the FBI.

Yet looking at his FBI file, even the most basic facts of his life are riddled with inaccuracies. There is, for instance, a description of Baldwin as “white, early 20s, 6′, neat.” In another file, Baldwin is listed as the author of “Go Tell It to the Mountains” and “Another World.” His first and third novels are in fact titled Go Tell It On The Mountain and Another Country. Such baffling errors read like a precursor to the ways in which bulk collection of metadata today often results in wellsprings of misinformation.

Hannah K. Gold, on The Intercept, has an excellent essay on the FBI surveillance files of James Baldwin. Read it here.