Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) claims the film Judas and the Black Messiah inspired him to introduce a bill that would strip J. Edgar Hoover’s name from the FBI building.
Cohen claimed that the film presented a “clear depiction of [Hoover’s] efforts to impede the civil rights movement,” according to Deadline.
The Tennessee Democrat insists, in light of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others, Hoover’s actions can be “looked upon from a different perspective.”
When he introduced the bill, Cohen exclaimed Hoover “doesn’t deserve the honor and recognition of having the nation’s premiere law enforcement agency headquarters named for him. The civil rights we enjoy today are in spite of J. Edgar Hoover, not because of him.”
The film, starring Daniel Kaluuya, follows Fred Hampton’s leadership of the Chicago Black Panthers as he confronts FBI infiltrators and assaults by the Chicago Police Department in the late 1960s. The movie depicts many skirmishes between Hampton’s Black Panther chapter and law enforcement, both in shootouts and court cases. Hampton was eventually shot and killed in December 1969 by officers conducting a raid on an apartment in which he was sleeping with his pregnant wife.
Cohen’s office described its opposition to the former FBI director in a press release announcing the bill:
Hoover, who served as FBI director from 1924 to 1972, was a notorious bigot who sought to disrupt the Civil Rights Movement, attack black and anti-war activists, and out LGBTQ federal employees. Under his leadership, the FBI engaged in a variety of practices of questionable legality. He may be best remembered for his campaign to discredit Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through the use of wiretaps and other tools. He is also implicated in the deaths of Fred Hampton and Malcolm X.
In a statement about the bill, Cohen added:
I am pleased to see the outpouring of support for this long overdue righting of an egregious wrong. J. Edgar Hoover doesn’t deserve the honor and recognition of having the nation’s premiere law enforcement agency headquarters named for him. The civil rights we enjoy today are in spite of J. Edgar Hoover, not because of him. Yet his name adorns one of the most prominent buildings on Pennsylvania Avenue in our nation’s capital and one that houses an agency of government responsible for assuring justice. Given his well-documented abuses and prejudices, including his efforts to silence Dr. King and his support for un-Constitutional counterintelligence programs such as COINTELPRO, I believe it is past time to remove his name from this place of honor.
Twenty-four other House Democrats have signed on to cosponsor Cohen’s proposal.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Facebook at: facebook.com/Warner.Todd.Huston.