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F.B. EyesHow J. Edgar Hoover's Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature$
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William J. Maxwell

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780691130200

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691130200.001.0001

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Consciousness of FBI Ghostreading Fills a Deep and Characteristic Vein of African American Literature

Consciousness of FBI Ghostreading Fills a Deep and Characteristic Vein of African American Literature

Chapter:
(p.215) Part Five/Thesis Five Consciousness of FBI Ghostreading Fills a Deep and Characteristic Vein of African American Literature
Source:
F.B. Eyes
Author(s):

William J. Maxwell

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691130200.003.0006

This part argues that Afro-modernist literature “pre-responded” to FBI inspection, internalizing the likelihood of Bureau ghostreading and publicizing its implications with growing bluntness and embellishment over the years from 1919 to 1972 and beyond. Thus, the fifth and last of the book's five theses, and the one that finally involves closer encounters with black poems, stories, essays, and novels than with their silhouettes in FBI files: Consciousness of FBI ghostreading fills a deep and characteristic vein of African American literature. Section 1 examines decisive responses to FBI surveillance in both the early journalism and the foundational poetry of the Harlem movement. Section 2 charts the FBI's migrant status in Afro-modernism from the mid-1930s through the early Cold War. Section 3 focuses on the expatriate trio of Richard Wright, William Gardner Smith, and Chester Himes, and their interlocking fictions of Paris noir in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Section 4 widens its focus, owing to the profusion of black Bureau writing in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The final section sketches African American literature's less heated skirmish with the FBI after Hoover's death—a skirmish now led by black women including Ai, Audre Lorde, Danzy Senna, and Gloria Naylor.

Keywords:   African American literature, Afro-modernism, ghostreading, FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, African American writers, black women, Richard Wright, William Gardner Smith, Chester Himes

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