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FBI releases its files on Aretha Franklin

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The FBI extensively tracked Aretha Franklin in the 1960s and 1970s, according to newly declassified files. The documents show that the US intelligence agency took particular interest in Franklin’s civil rights activism, and paid close attention to her performances for Martin Luther King Jr’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.The files were unsealed as the result of a Freedom Of Information request that journalist Jenn Dize filed all the way back in 2018.

Having finally got access to that information, earlier this week she provided highlights of what she had received on Twitter.Among other things, the FBI documents allege that Franklin was set to take part in a “huge memorial concert” for King after his assassination in 1968, which, the government agency recorded, “would provide emotional spark which could ignite racial disturbance this area”.

In the end, the concert did not take place.The files also show that the FBI investigated potential links between Franklin and other groups, including the Black Panthers, the Boston branch of the Young Workers Liberation League, and the Black Liberation Army, which the files describe as a “quasi-military group composed of small guerrilla units employing the tactics of urban guerrilla warfare against the established order with a view toward achieving revolutionary change in America”.Although concentrating largely on the 60s and 70s, including records of death threats against the singer, there are later entries into the file, including discussion of a copyright infringement claim relating to the sale of bootlegged concert recordings from a Yahoo!

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