Interview with Burke Marshall


Burke Marshall:

The FBI had information, it turns out, uh, that was quite specific about what was going to happen in Birmingham. They might have had uh, similar information about what was going to happen in Anniston, but I'm not sure of that. But they clearly had advance information from Klan sources uh, that the uh, Freedom Riders were going to be attacked in the bus station at Birmingham, and that the Birmingham police were going to absent themselves and not do anything uh, to protect the riders. The Bureau knew that. Uh, the Bureau didn't pass that information along to anybody in any other part of the Department;** they didn't inform the Civil Rights Division; they didn't inform the Attorney General; they didn't inform anyone until after the event. Now, uh, the reason that they didn't do that, may be partly, uh, sort of a historical statistic that they, they didn't understand what was going on in, in the country. Uh, it may have been in part, a, uh, bureaucratic uh, FBI reaction to the protection of informants uh, because if, if they had done something, it might have become, probably would have become, clear to the Klan, that someone in the Klan was peaching [?]. And the uh, danger to that person, had he been identified by the Klan, would have been very great—so that, that might have been another reason. A third reason is that I think the Bureau, Mr. Hoover personally, was totally out of sympathy with the civil rights movement and uh, especially uh, the, the degr- degree to which it took uh, uh, focus in, in uh, demonstrations and uh, direct action.