Beginning in the late 1960s through the 1970s, the FBI consistently monitored Franklin as an influential musician who had connections to various leaders of Black freedom organizations. FBI documents reveal that Franklin was a target of the agency's ongoing surveillance tactics.
The unsealed documents also show that she was being monitored during a 1967 appearance at a convention hosted by Dr. Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Also, she was under surveillance at another event where her father, Rev. C.L Franklin, reportedly said that China was becoming an emerging "world power in the '60s." According to the documents, the Bureau claimed that the "SCLC leadership has taken a 'hate America' and 'pro-Communist' line."
Four days after King was assassinated on April 8, 1968, FBI informants noted that Franklin was scheduled to perform at a memorial concert to be held in Atlanta along with Sammy Davis, Jr., Marlon Brando, Mahalia Jackson and The Supremes.
An FBI informant said that, "Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee members felt the performance by these prominent entertainers would provide the emotional spark which could ignite racial disturbance in the area."
"Of this group, some have supported militant the Black power concept and most have been in forefront of various civil rights movements," the memo continued.
Eventually, the memorial service was canceled by the SCLC.
In 1971, memos listed the Black Panther Party of Los Angeles and the Boston Young Workers Liberation League as organizations that sought to book Franklin to perform at their rallies.
On another occasion, according to documents, the agency used a "suitable pretext telephone call" to the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles in November 1972 “to determine that the Black Panther Party had contacted Franklin via phone.”
In 1973, two informants concluded that Franklin was not linked to any “radical movements."
"In view of the fact there is no evidence of involvement by Miss Franklin in [Black Liberation Army] activities and in view of her fame as a singer, it is felt that it would not be in the best interests of the Bureau to attempt to interview her," the memo read.
Franklin's FBI files were accessed through a Freedom of Information Act request made in 2018 by Jenn Dize, the founder of Courage News. In a tweet, Dize noted that the FBI made several attempts to tie the "Queen of Soul" to "militant Black power" groups in the '60s and '70s.
"It [reflected] the need of a nation, the need of the average man and woman in the street, the businessman, the mother, the fireman, the teacher—everyone wanted respect," Franklin wrote. "It was also one of the battle cries of the civil rights movement. The song took on monumental significance."