The Rise of the Messiah: The American Government's Surveillance of SNCC Leaders, 1960-1972 Open Access

Morgan, Christina (Spring 2019)

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This thesis discusses how Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) members James Forman, Stokely Carmichael, and H. Rap Brown experienced targeting and surveillance from the American government from 1960 to 1972.  Primarily the FBI, but also other government agencies like the CIA heavily scrutinized Forman, Carmichael, and Brown during the civil rights and Black Power movement.  During the 1960s, the government perceived two major threats facing the nation. Civil rights workers challenged the social and political order of American society.  Meanwhile, due to hostile relations between the United States and the Soviet Union during this time, the American government also feared the rise and spread of communism.  Therefore, the government often targeted civil rights leaders and people perceived as maintaining leftist ideologies.  Forman, Carmichael, and Brown were all influential civil rights leaders who associated with the New Left and held relations with leftist regimes like Cuba and Guinea.  This thesis analyzes how the intersection of these men as radical leftist civil rights workers affected the way in which the American government targeted them.  This thesis will show that as these men became increasingly more radical during the civil rights movement and into the more militant Black Power movement, the government responded by intensifying its tactics of surveillance.  By analyzing government documents, primarily from the FBI, and works written by Forman, Carmichael, and Brown themselves, the thesis seeks to unveil how this conflict began, shifted, and, escalated from SNCC’s inception to its demise.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1 – James Forman: SNCC’s Transition to a Revolutionary Organization and the Federal Government’s Retaliation……9

Chapter 2 - Stokely Carmichael: What SNCC’s Increasing International Influence Meant for the Federal Government…………34

Chapter 3 - H. Rap Brown: The True Lengths to Which the American Government Would Go to Stop a Revolutionary Leader……57


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