What do you see?
One of the most interesting parts of writing my latest book (How Social Movements Die) was uncovering and exploring an untapped resource of government records. In particular, I utilized what were referred to as "Red Squad" files. These were compiled by police agencies throughout the United States from the early 1900s until the 1970s and perhaps beyond this time. The objective of these units included monitoring radical organizations as well as individuals and, when deemed necessary, constraining and/or eliminating them. The records themselves are fascinating. One example is provided below.
As you can see, the records identify which government agency was involved, when they filed a report, when the relevant events took place, where the event took place, who was present and what they said. There is also information that is blacked out by political authorities in order to prevent identification from those that gained access to the relevant material (something I will discuss in a subsequent blog). This information becomes useful for not only understanding who did what to whom but it also provides some information about what authorities thought was useful to track (i.e., time, space, actors, organizations and action) and it also says something about the language of both resistance (from the state's perspective) as well as repression. It also provides information on how quickly governments found out what was going on. For example, in the example provided here governments were delayed two days in reporting relevant activity. I wonder if this varied and why?
The records here concern the Republic of New Africa (RNA) - a black nationalist and secessionist organization principally based in Detroit but with consulates or chapters all throughout the United States between 1968 and 1973. The particular records identified here were facilitated by an informant being in the organization (simply referred to as "Source") reveals that the RNA was giving speeches, planning to support members being dragged into court as well as identifying orientation meetings as well as shooting practice. Interestingly, the records noted above clearly identify that the RNA repeatedly used churches as meeting places. It is generally thought that the civil rights movement relied upon religious institutions but the connection to black nationalism/secessionism has been less consistently highlighted.
What do you see?
Analog - The Anti-Blog
By "Analog" I am referring to the adjective (i.e., relating to or using signals or information represented by a continuously variable physical quantity such as spatial position or voltage) and not the noun (i.e., a person or thing seen as comparable to another) for I wished to give voice to my thoughts which have come to me in a more or less continuous manner but which do so in a way that is not consistent in content or form. Thus you will see short stories, brief thoughts, haikus, low-kus and even a political cartoon or two.