[Readings] | And Red All Over, by William J. Maxwell | Harper's Magazine

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And Red All Over


From the FBI file on Lloyd Louis Brown, who wrote the prison novel Iron City (1951), edited several Communist journals, and coauthored Paul Robeson’s autobiography, Here I Stand. The file was acquired by William Maxwell, whose book F.B. Eyes: How J. Edgar Hoover’s Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature was published by Princeton University Press in February. Maxwell recovered FBI files kept on fifty-one twentieth-century African-American writers.

On 2/20/62 in the vicinity of 43rd St. and Broadway, Lloyd Brown was approached by S.A.’s [redacted] and [redacted] for the purpose of conducting an interview. When approached, Brown acknowledged his identity, whereupon the Agents suggested that he pause momentarily to discuss certain matters of apparent interest. Brown, in an excited and vehement manner, stated that he was only interested in his freedom and that he was not going to discuss anything with the FBI until he got his freedom. Continuing, he stated that the FBI should be down South investigating the deplorable conditions under which the Negroes must live. When pressed for a specific situation wherein the Bureau would have jurisdiction, Brown continued a tirade concerning his freedom. When it was mentioned to Brown that he could hardly deny that great strides had been made in the Negro question, and that since he apparently did not think so, it should then follow that his activity in the Communist movement was ineffective, and therefore, perhaps the interviewing Agents could suggest a new approach to him, Brown ignored this and stated, “I’m just a Mau Mau without a spear. Go ahead, call me a ‘nigger,’ everybody else does.” Brown continued by advising the Agents to go back and tell whoever they tell that he is the meanest, rottenest S.O.B. they ever met and that is the way he is going to be until he gets his freedom.

Further efforts were made to bring Brown around to discussing himself and the Communist conspiracy, and to neutralize by reason his apparent obsession with [his] lack of freedom. Brown ignored these efforts and continued ranting in an irrational manner. The interview was thus terminated. In view of Brown’s hostile attitude coupled with his expressed obsession with Negro inequality, no recontact is contemplated at this time.

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