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Police Bigoted Brutality Isn’t New: The Jean Seberg Story

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Amazon Prime Video recently issued a movie entitled Seberg, which depicts the life of Jean Seberg, an American in the 1960s who became a famous actress both in the United States and France.

The Jean Seberg story, however, is much more than just about film. It also is a very timely reminder, given the recent police killings of George Floyd and other black Americans, that police brutality of blacks goes back a long way. Equally important, it is a reminder of the dangers to a free society posed by a national police entity like the FBI.

Seberg was a leftist who became aware in the 1960s of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, a socialist group founded by two Marxist college students, Bobby Seale and Huey Newton in California. The organization was active from 1966 to 1982 with chapters in several large American cities.

According to Wikipedia, “At its inception on October 15, 1966, the Black Panther Party’s core practice was its open carry armed citizens’ patrols (“copwatching”) to monitor the behavior of officers of the Oakland Police Department and challenge police brutality in the city.”

Opposing police brutality, however, was not the only reason the Black Panthers was formed. Wikipedia states: “In 1969, a variety of community social programs became a core activity. The Party instituted the Free Breakfast for Children Programs to address food injustice, and community health clinics for education and treatment of diseases including sickle cell anemia, tuberculosis, and later HIV/AIDS.”

Resisting police brutality and helping the poor and disadvantaged are what attracted Seberg (and many others) to the Black Panthers. She associated herself with them and began making generous financial donations to their cause.

Gun violence with cops, however, led to the deaths and injuries of both policemen and Black Panther members, which naturally led to increased government persecution of the group, which, in turn, increased black support of the Panthers. In 1967 the Mulford Act was passed under the administration of Governor Ronald Reagan, which, according to Wikipedia, established “strict gun laws that stripped legal ownership of firearms from Black Panther members and prevented all citizens, black and white, from carrying firearms in public.”

The Black Panthers also attracted the attention, concern, and ire of J. Edgar Hoover, the infamous head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, one of the most powerful and tyrannical federal agencies in U.S. history, one whose building name in Washington, D.C, is proudly named after Hoover.

Under Hoover, the FBI was also one of the most racially bigoted federal agencies, one that absolutely refused to permit blacks to enter the ranks of FBI agents. Hoover, who ran the agency as a personal fiefdom, explained his reason for this policy in a statement to a group of newspaper editors in 1965: “The colored people are quite ignorant, mostly uneducated, and I doubt if they would seek an education if they had an opportunity.”

In what can only be described as an extreme bout of anti-communist paranoia, Hoover became convinced that the U.S. civil-rights movement was the spearhead of a worldwide communist conspiracy to take over the United States and the rest of the world. It was a conspiracy that he, along with the rest of the U.S. national-security establishment, said was based in Moscow, Russia, with direct connections to Beijing, China, Pyongyang, North Korea, Hanoi, Vietnam, and Havana, Cuba.

Thus, the FBI, along with the CiA and the rest of the U.S. national-security state, began viewing people like Martin Luther King, Jean Seberg, Hollywood writer Dalton Trumbo, and countless other left-leaning Americans as grave threats to “national security.”

The purpose of a national-security state, of course, is to eradicate threats to “national security,” through defamation, infiltration, surveillance, blackmail, extortion, harassment, humiliation, and even assassination.

At Hoover’s direction, the FBI targeted Jean Seberg with destruction, even though Hoover and the FBI goons he directed to destroy her knew that she had absolutely nothing to do with any acts of violence committed by Black Panther members.

They embarked on a campaign of illegal wiretaps, following her, conducting 24-hour-a-day surveillance of her, and burglarizing her house. She knew that they were doing these things but couldn’t prove it. When she complained to friends of what was being done to her, they naturally assumed that she was becoming psychotic.

According to the movie, through their wiretaps and surveillance the FBI discovered that Seberg was having an extramarital affair with a Black Panther member. Later on , when she became pregnant, the FBI secretly disclosed to the public that her yet unborn child had been fathered by a member of the Black Panthers, a widely publicized and false rumor that caused Seberg to go into an early childbirth. The baby, who was clearly white, died a couple of days after birth.

Of course, the matter brings to mind Hoover’s and the FBI’s secret legal wiretapping of Martin Luther King, followed by their threat to Hoover to disclose a supposed extra-marital affair of his if he didn’t commit suicide.

According to the book Neutralized: the FBI vs. Jean Seberg, “the FBI placed Jean Seberg on its Security Index-Priority III. Priority III was reserved for any individual who ‘because of background is potentially dangerous; or has been identified as a member or participant in communist movement, or has been under active investigation as a member of other group or organization inimical to the United States.’ Seberg was marked as one of those the FBI would round up to safeguard the republic.”

Through the 1970s, Seberg periodically attempted suicide on the anniversary of her child’s death. Unable to deal with the FBI’s harassment, she finally gave up on Hollywood and moved permanently to France. In 1979, her badly decomposed body was found in her car near her Paris apartment with a bottle of barbiturates and a short suicide note. She was 40 years old.

The official police report determined that it was a “probable suicide” but the following year charges were filed against persons unknown for “non-assistance of a person in danger.” According to media accounts, “But officials said yesterday tests also showed an alcohol level (7.94 grams per litre) almost double the dose at which a person would be comatose and unable to get into a car without help. No alcoholic beverage container was found in the unlocked car, they said.”

The post Police Bigoted Brutality Isn’t New: The Jean Seberg Story appeared first on The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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About The Author

Jacob G. Hornberger

The Future of Freedom Foundation was founded in 1989 by FFF president Jacob Hornberger with the aim of establishing an educational foundation that would advance an uncompromising case for libertarianism in the context of both foreign and domestic policy. The mission of The Future of Freedom Foundation is to advance freedom by providing an uncompromising moral and economic case for individual liberty, free markets, private property, and limited government. Visit

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