[sixties-l] LBJ Targeted Black Power Radicals

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: 11/13/00

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    LBJ Targeted Black Power Radicals
    Files Show FBI Secretly Checked Stokely Carmichael's Draft Status
    May 15, 2000
    By Hans H. Chen
    WASHINGTON (APBnews.com) -- The 1966 election of Stokely Carmichael to lead 
    the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee so alarmed President Lyndon 
    Johnson that he ordered the FBI to send him reports on the "black power" 
    activist several times a week, and even inquired about Carmichael's draft 
    The FBI's release of a part of its files on Carmichael fuels the 
    long-standing suspicions of SNCC members that the government sought to 
    silence the civil rights group by sending its leaders to the front lines of 
    the Vietnam War.
    Carmichael's FBI file numbers over 18,000 pages and would ordinarily take 
    years to review and release, the FBI said. But after negotiations with 
    APBnews.com, the agency agreed to expedite the publication of the file's 
    first 282 pages.
                      'Good coverage' wanted
    Those pages reveal a pattern of government suspicion, observation and 
    infiltration at the highest levels. Three
    months after Carmichael's election to lead the civil rights group SNCC, 
    Marvin Watson, a key Johnson aide, called the FBI asking for information on 
    Carmichael and the SNCC.
    "Watson stated that the President would like to be reassured that the FBI 
    has good coverage on Carmichael," wrote one of FBI Director J. Edgar 
    Hoover's aides. "I told him we had excellent sources within this group. 
    Watson also stated that the President would like to have, at least several 
    times a week, a memorandum on the activities of Carmichael and his group."
    The level of FBI interest surprised even Julian Bond, the SNCC's former 
    communications director and today
    the chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored 
    "It seemed obvious to us that the FBI and state and local police had 
    movement people under surveillance," he said, "but I don't think we 
    imagined it was so extensive."
    Carmichael died in November 1998 in Africa, where he had lived since 1969. 
    For one year he led SNCC, founded 30 years ago last month, before leaving 
    to join the more radical Black Panthers. To replace Carmichael, the SNCC 
    elected H. Rap Brown, who later changed his name to Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin. 
    He became a community activist, but he now stands accused in a March 16 
    killing of a sheriff's deputy in Atlanta and faces the death penalty.
    Under the rallying cry of black power, Carmichael rejected the philosophy 
    of nonviolence that had first motivated the SNCC's founders in 1960, and he 
    called on blacks to win economic and political self-sufficiency. After 
    Carmichael's election, SNCC expelled its white members and abandoned the 
    political alliances earlier civil rights activists had formed with the 
    Democratic administrations of Kennedy and Johnson.
                      Activists felt betrayed by Democrats
    Johnson's surveillance of the group also reflected the mutual distrust 
    between Carmichael and the mainstream, white-dominated political system. 
    Two years before Carmichael's election, Johnson had prevented 60 black 
    activists at the 1964 Democratic Presidential Convention from replacing the 
    state's segregationist, all-white regular delegation. Johnson did, however, 
    dispatch 30 FBI agents to monitor every move the SNCC made at the 
    convention, according to Robert Dallek, a Johnson biographer.
    This sort of political intrigue, along with the lackadaisical protection 
    the FBI offered civil rights workers, contributed to SNCC's radicalism.
    "These kind of events, and the kinds of violence that was put upon workers, 
    made it very clear that if we assumed we had a friend in the White House, 
    that we were probably mistaken," said Cleveland Sellers Jr., who served as 
    SNCC's national program director.
                      White House's secret request
    Carmichael's FBI file also hints at more sinister government machinations. 
    On Sept. 9, 1966, Johnson's secretary called the White House asking about 
    Carmichael's draft status.
    "Mrs. Stegall [Johnson's secretary] said the White House was interested in 
    determining precisely what the Selective Service status of Carmichael is 
    and what the facts were which prompted various changes in classification," 
    an FBI official wrote later that day. "She emphasized that under no 
    circumstances was it desired that it be known the White House is interested 
    in [sic] and this should be handled most discretely."
    The FBI satisfied Johnson's curiosity by quoting the psychiatrist who 
    performed Carmichael's pre-draft screening in 1965.  Carmichael's various 
    arrests for civil disobedience "seem not evident of any inherent 
    anti-social or criminal traits, and I feel from our standpoint, he would 
    rate a 'waiver recommendation.' However, there seems to be homo-sexual 
    tendencies as well as hetero-sexual relationships. I would like to follow 
    this case more closely as far as his further conduct is concerned."
    That exam downgraded Carmichael's draft status from I-A, which meant he had 
    been available for military service, to IV-F, meaning he was not qualified.
    But nothing else in the declassified portion of Carmichael's file indicates 
    any further evidence of "homo-sexual tendencies," and a second exam in 1966 
    upgraded his draft status to I-Y, which meant he was only eligible for 
    military service in time of war or national emergency.
    To Sellers, who spent four months in jail for draft evasion in 1967, 
    Johnson's inquiry confirmed the feeling at the time that SNCC members were 
    being made available for the draft as retribution for their outspoken 
    opposition to the Vietnam War.
                      Attacking SNCC with military service
    "All of a sudden, it seemed as if all the young men in SNCC were being 
    drafted," Sellers said. "So it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out 
    that, systemically, SNCC was under attack by the administration to draft us 
    into the armed services."
    Bond said his draft officer even once admitted to a magazine:
    "'That [expletive] Julian Bond, we let him slip through our fingers.'"
    "We always assumed this was a mixture of just local draft boards acting on 
    their own initiative and some kind of orders from on high, saying, 'Get 
    those guys, get those people, get them off the street,'" Bond said.
    The FBI documents currently available do not show that Johnson expressly 
    asked for SNCC activists to be drafted and sent to Vietnam, only that 
    Johnson showed an unusual interest in their draft status.
                      At home, a 'kind of war going on'
    While many of SNCC's leaders have gone on to become leaders in mainstream 
    society, many more conservative Americans of the 1960s looked at the SNCC's 
    radicalism, rejection of nonviolence and opposition to the Vietnam War with 
    alarm. Carmichael's file includes several letters from Americans who called 
    on Hoover to arrest or deport Carmichael, who was born in Trinidad but had 
    been naturalized as a child.
    Many at the time also feared SNCC's growing black separatism would lead to 
    even worse racial conflicts. Riots had already erupted in several cities by 
    1964, including Philadelphia and New York. The mostly black Watts 
    neighborhood in Los Angeles went up in flames one year later.
    Johnson had embraced the mainstream civil rights movement and pushed 
    through the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 
    1965. But he, too, feared that the SNCC could foster more violence and 
    believed it had been infected by communism. To Johnson, these beliefs 
    justified the group's surveillance, said Dallek, the author of a two-volume 
    biography of the former president.
    "In the context of what was going on in the country and in the context of 
    the suspicions that had been generated in the administration, you had this 
    kind of impulse to investigate and probe and look over people's shoulders 
    and keep track of those they thought had ties to radicalism," Dallek said. 
    "There was kind of war going on, a kind of domestic civil conflict."
    Hans H. Chen is an APBnews.com staff writer (hans.chen@apbnews.com).

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