chapter  3
38 Pages

The Quakers of the AFSC

Unveiling communism in the Cold War era
ByKathryn Montalbano

This chapter analyzes the Federal Bureau of Information (FBI) surveillance of the Quaker organization, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), with a focus on the files dating from the 1940s to the 1960s. It first provides a brief introduction to the history and mission of the AFSC, followed by an overview of its surveillance by the FBI starting in 1921. The chapter traces how FBI agents, under Hoover’s command, attempted to understand Quaker religious beliefs; determine how closely these beliefs coincided with the AFSC mission and its Quaker religious expression; and decide the extent to which, if at all, Quakerism influenced the actions of AFSC members suspected of communist sympathies or alliances. The chapter then details how FBI Special Agents in Charge (SACs), in particularly those from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, questioned the legitimacy of Hoover’s instructions regarding AFSC surveillance, thereby demonstrating the heterogeneous nature of government monitoring. The chapter concludes with the reformation of the AFSC upon learning of its own surveillance, which included its energized political platform and defense of other groups surveilled by the FBI.