Director J. Edgar Hoover ordered the FBI's Los Angeles office to obtain advance copies of two movie scripts on Malcolm X, the black nationalist leader who was slain in 1965, to determine whether they were critical of the bureau, according to recently released files.
In a memo dated March 27, 1968, Hoover instructed the office to "discreetly contact sources" at Columbia Pictures in order to obtain a copy of a script by James Baldwin, and at 20th Century-Fox for a script written by Louis E. Lomax, another prominent black writer.
"Los Angeles should be particularly alert for indications that the bureau will be protrayed or mentioned in either movie," Hoover wrote. "Los Angeles should obtain advance copies of these script in order that the interest of the bureau may be protected."
There was no indication whether the bureau received copies of the scripts. Neither movie was produced.
The memo is part of more than 2,300 pages released from FBI files on its 12-year campaign to "neutralize" Malcolm X, the black nationalist who was shot to death while delivering a speech in a New York hotel on Feb. 21, 1965. Three Black Muslims were convicted of his murder a year later.
Malcolm X (Malcolm Little) was killed less than two years after breaking with the black separatist movement known as the Nation of Islam, or Black Muslims, which was then headed by Elijah Muhammad, founder of the group.
After Malcolm X's death, Baldwin and Lomax said they believed U.S. intelligence agencies played a role in his murder.
Baldwin and Lomax were under FBI surveillance at various times throughout the 1960s.
Throughout this period, FBI agents were ordered to obtain copies of every book on Malcolm X in order to determine whether "any mention is made of the FBI." Each book was reviewed in a memo to the FBI director, then placed in the bureau's library, according to FBI files.
FBI offices around the country monitored marches, rallies, and other activities focusing on Malcolm X because, according to the documents, many blacks regarded "Malcolm X as a hero and a martyr."