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Vol. 137-143, 1969-1974
Collection Description & Creator Information
The collection consists of approximately 110,000 pages of redacted photocopies of FBI and NYPD investigatory documents about the Black Panther Party (BPP) and its top leaders. The content includes photocopies of BPP leaflets, bank records, phone transcripts, meetings, daily activities, speeches, travel records, and mainstream media articles. It documents the FBI's monitoring of the BPP, the FBI's efforts to stymie and break the organization, and COINTELPRO, the FBI's illegal and secret project to disrupt and discredit legitimate American political organizations.
By 1971, the FBI produced biweekly multi-page intelligence summaries on the BPP. Many of the FBI's memos start with the clause "The BPP is a violence-prone Black militant organization headquartered in Berkeley, California with chapters located throughout the United States."
Much of the FBI's efforts to disrupt the BPP involved exploiting the rift between Eldridge Cleaver and Huey Newton, as well as creating dissension between the BPP on the East Coast and the BPP on the West Coast.
Through COINTELPRO, the FBI mailed dozens of anonymous letters to Eldridge Cleaver, H. Rap Brown, Huey Newton, and others. The letters often threatened the men, created discord (i.e. suggested that Huey Newton wasn't sharing all his speaking fees with the BPP), and gave them false information. The geographic scope of the collection includes Atlanta, Baltimore, Detroit, New Haven and Middletown, Connecticut. While the names of confidential informants are frequently redacted, very little of the COINTELPRO materials have been removed. Thus, the collection includes the fake letters mailed to the BPP leadership and the letters to the newspaper editors actually written by FBI agents.
The documents in the collection were disclosed during court-ordered discovery in a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by former Black Panther Party (BPP) leader Dhoruba Bin Wahad (formerly Richard Dhoruba Moore). The lawsuit, Bin Wahad v. FBI, et al., 75 Civ. 6203 (USDC/SDNY) was part of a decades-long effort to win freedom for Bin Wahad, who was wrongfully convicted of the 1971 attempted murder of two New York City Police officers. Among other things, the lawsuit charged that Bin Wahad was framed as part of COINTELPRO.
After many years of litigation the lawsuit was successful in proving that the government suppressed evidence of Bin Wahad's innocence. Bin Wahad was released from prison in 1990 after being incarcerated for nearly 19 years. The civil lawsuit continued. A monetary settlement with the FBI was reached in 1995 and a settlement with the New York City Police Department was reached in 2000.
Content Warning Many of the FBI and NYPD documents contained in this collection were created as part of its COINTELPRO, which actively engaged in a disinformation campaign to undermine and stymie American political organizations. Therefore not all of the information contained within the collection is true. For example, an FBI document may falsely state that an individual has committed a certain crime or was planning to commit a crime. Documents may also mischaracterize the BPP and its motives. Finally, some documents may make false assertions about BPP members' personal lives.
- Archival Appraisal Information:
No materials were removed from the collection during 2022 processing beyond routine appraisal practices.
Access & Use
- Access Restrictions:
The collection is open for research, except for the Wiretap Logs and Dhoruba Bin Wahad file groups which are restricted until March 1, 2032.
- Conditions for Reproduction and Use:
Single copies may be made for research purposes. No further duplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to Special Collections Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.
- Credit this material:
Vol. 137-143; Dhoruba Bin Wahad & Robert Boyle Collection of FBI Files Related to the Black Panther Party, C1702, Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library
- Firestone LibraryOne Washington RoadPrinceton, NJ 08544, USA
- Storage Note:
- Firestone Library (mss): Box B-001931