James Baldwin

The FBI File

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About The Book

Available in book form for the first time, the FBI's secret dossier on the legendary and controversial writer.

Decades before Black Lives Matter returned James Baldwin to prominence, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI considered the Harlem-born author the most powerful broker between black art and black power. Baldwin’s 1,884-page FBI file, covering the period from 1958 to 1974, was the largest compiled on any African American artist of the Civil Rights era. This collection of once-secret documents, never before published in book form, captures the FBI’s anxious tracking of Baldwin’s writings, phone conversations, and sexual habits—and Baldwin’s defiant efforts to spy back at Hoover and his G-men.

James Baldwin: The FBI File reproduces over one hundred original FBI records, selected by the noted literary historian whose award-winning book, F.B. Eyes: How J. Edgar Hoover’s Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature, brought renewed attention to bureau surveillance. William J. Maxwell also provides an introduction exploring Baldwin's enduring relevance in the time of Black Lives Matter along with running commentaries that orient the reader and offer historical context, making this book a revealing look at a crucial slice of the American past—and present.

Product Details
  • Publisher: Arcade (June 2017)
  • Length: 440 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781628727371

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Raves and Reviews

"This compendium offers an unquestionably unique look into the life of one of America’s most esteemed thinkers, whose work has seen a resurgence as a centerpiece of the Black Lives Matter movement."—Publishers Weekly

"Maxwell presents the actual documentation in chronological order, using brief discussions to provide valuable context . . . He adeptly curates the strange hoard of documentation, but the primary sources will be most appreciated by completists. An unsettling demonstration of how a paranoid, reactionary government can treat significant artists."—Kirkus

"Disturbing, inspiring, and eye-opening . . . an enlightening and outrageous portrait of the FBI's harassing surveillance of a brilliant 20th-century writer and activist."—Shelf Awareness

"Maxwell should be congratulated . . . James Baldwin: The FBI File is exciting and humorous in all the right and wrong historical ways."—Atlanta Black Star

Advocate>

“Baldwin’s FBI file [is] a valuable biographical, social and at times literary critical document. . . . Maxwell offers wry and often witty interpretation of the documents. . . . [His] work is intended to show that Black Writers Matter—or that they used to, especially during the period in which Hoover held office as Director of the FBI."—Times Literary Supplement

"This compendium offers an unquestionably unique look into the life of one of America’s most esteemed thinkers, whose work has seen a resurgence as a centerpiece of the Black Lives Matter movement."—Publishers Weekly

"Maxwell presents the actual documentation in chronological order, using brief discussions to provide valuable context . . . He adeptly curates the strange hoard of documentation, but the primary sources will be most appreciated by completists. An unsettling demonstration of how a paranoid, reactionary government can treat significant artists."—Kirkus

"Disturbing, inspiring, and eye-opening . . . an enlightening and outrageous portrait of the FBI's harassing surveillance of a brilliant 20th-century writer and activist."—Shelf Awareness

"Maxwell should be congratulated . . . James Baldwin: The FBI File is exciting and humorous in all the right and wrong historical ways."—Atlanta Black Star

Advocate>

“Baldwin’s FBI file [is] a valuable biographical, social and at times literary critical document. . . . Maxwell offers wry and often witty interpretation of the documents. . . . [His] work is intended to show that Black Writers Matter—or that they used to, especially during the period in which Hoover held office as Director of the FBI."—Times Literary Supplement

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