‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ renews calls to remove Hoover’s name from FBI building

EXCLUSIVE: Congressman Bobby Rush and Congresswoman Barbara Lee throw their support behind renaming the FBI headquarters, which is currently named after J. Edgar Hoover

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Confederate statues and symbols linked to the United States’ history of racism, including the confederacy and the horrific enslavement of Africans, have faced removal in recent years.

But now leaders and activists are turning their attention more specifically to the racist actors throughout the nation’s long history of oppression. A poignant and recent example is the call to change the name of the the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  

Read More: Georgia to erect John Lewis statue in place of Confederate monument

United States flags hang in front of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Edgar J. Hoover Building May 9, 2017 in Washington, DC. On the recommendation of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey Tuesday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

In 2020, Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen introduced bill H.R. 7829 that would officially rename the building to the “Federal Bureau of Investigation Building.” Additionally, Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly introduced H.R. 7865 that would establish the National Commission on Renaming the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Headquarters Building Act.

Now in 2021, there is a renewed call to take former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover‘s name off the FBI building. Hoover’s name was placed there in 1972 months after his death. 

It was also the same year Shirley Chisholm ran for president.

John Edgar Hoover (1895-1972), American criminologist and government official. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Hoover was the first director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. During his time as head of the agency, among the controversies associated with his tenure, Hoover overreached in the department’s investigations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

Read More: A call to remove J. Edgar Hoover’s name from the FBI headquarters

Illinois Congressman Bobby Rush tells theGrio that Hoover also oversaw the “state-sanctioned assassination of on an American citizen,” referring to Chicago leader Fred Hampton, who served as head of the Chicago chapter’s Black Panther Party.

Congressman Rush, who was the founder of the Chicago Black Panther Party, is calling for Hoover’s name to be taken down. 

Bobby Rush
Courtesy of the office of Bobby Rush

He made the renewed call in an exclusive interview with theGrio just before the public release of the critically-acclaimed film, Judas and the Black Messiah. The movie depicts what happened to the Black Panther Party from 1968 until Hampton’s murder in 1969. The time frame of the film was following the riots sparked by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  

For those who know history, this will not be a spoiler alert, however, the ‘Judas’ in the film was FBI informant William O’Neil, a member of the Chicago Black Panthers. 

The movie reflects much of what is known and a lot that is not. But a major theme in the film is the FBI’s spying of the organization via the use of various informants — but the one who did the most damage was O’Neil.

Read More: Watch the shocking interview with the real-life Judas of ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’

The Black Panther Party worked to lift up the underserved Black community, with its 10-point plan to include meals for children, education and health care.

The Party attracted many people who wanted to help but who were not members like a young mother by the name of Barbara, who would go on to become California Congresswoman Barbara Lee

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) speaks during a news conference with members of the Democratic Women’s Caucus prior to State of the Union at the U.S. Capitol on February 4, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Edelman/Getty Images)

Congresswoman Lee tells theGrio she’s also in support of removing Hoover’s name from the federal building. Lee worked closely with Black Panthers in Oakland, California. She acknowledged helping to put their school together, served as Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seals‘s fundraising chair when he ran for mayor and worked the survival rallies bagging food.

Lee was also under surveillance by the FBI, to which she asked for and received her FBI file under the use of the Freedom of Information Act.

There is no new legislation on the movement to take J. Edger Hoover’s name from the FBI headquarters, but Judas and the Black Messiah has prompted the renewed ask to change the name.

Darrel Britt-Gibson, Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield appear ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ by Shaka King, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. (Photo: Courtesy of Sundance Institute/Glen Wilson)

To be sure, there are more stories that demonstrate Hoover’s unethical behavior and his overreach went far beyond what happened to the Black Panthers.

When former FBI Director James Comey was head of the agency, he ordered that all new recruits visit the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial statue to serve as a reminder to them of what not to do and what overreach in the department looked like.

That overreach was all at the hands of J. Edgar Hoover.

Even today there remain questions about the FBI’s action or inaction as it related to King’s assassination. Speculation about the bureau’s role in King’s death began in the early 1970s, as the public became aware of COINTELPRO, the FBI’s counterintelligence program that targeted King.

Many wondered, if the FBI was so closely surveilling King, how did they not prevent his assassination?

Still, investigations led by the U.S. Senate and Department of Justice concluded James Earl Ray, the gunman who killed Dr. King, acted as a lone assassin.

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