FBI Surveillance and Undercover Police Agents, part 2
As Kenneth O'Reilly also points out, to a certain extent CORE like all civil rights groups cooperated with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. (3) This would have been a balancing act because what such organizations essentially wanted was for law enforcement to do its job and protect the activists. CORE like the SCLC in agreeing that it did not want the potential problems that might have come with communism offered to root it out whenever possible. In his autobiography for example, CORE's national director James Farmer confirmed a story of how FBI deputy director Cartha DeLoach warned him a CORE member who had initially been sent in by the Communist Party was going to attempt a coup to topple Farmer. After confirming the information through his own investigation, Farmer got rid of him. (4)
Over time there were actually quite a few members of CORE who either came out of the Communist Party or were sympathizers, such as Brooklyn CORE chairman Ollie Leeds, his wife and founding member Marjorie Leeds, and Queens CORE chairman Dr. George Kaufman and his wife, member Elayne Jones. I have come across no real evidence, though, of them ever trying to push or impose 'the party line' on others in their chapters.
The same can be said for the many 'red diaper babies', the children of communists and/or communist sympathizers such as freedom rider Terry Perlman and New York CORE's Joanne Shane who joined CORE during the late 1950's and 1960's.
CORE members in general tended to lean more toward socialism than not. Several members of East River CORE, for example, as well as the chapter's mentors, Bayard Rustin, Norm and Velma Hill, became very active members of the Social Democrats, USA (formerly the Socialist Party of America). James Farmer identified himself as a democratic socialist.
The term 'agent' refers to undercover police agents, members of a law enforcement agency that have infiltrated CORE pretending they were not and were instead regular members like everyone else.
The informant 'plays an information gathering role'.(5) They are most often regular citizens who report on what was happening in general. They have different motivations. They may genuinely disagree with what the organization they are spying on is doing and see its actions as potentially harmful to society and/or fellow citizens. They also may have been set up by police agencies or even be police officers.
The Agent provocateur 'more assertively seeks to influence the actions of the group'.(6) For whatever reason, they chose to be disruptive with their general goal being to cause trouble for the targeted organization. Whether they were working for a law enforcement agency or another rival group such as the Communist Party, they usually had an agenda and were known for making suggestions to get the organization to become more militant, usually by committing or engaging in a violent action.
What's Going On
Different chapters handled the problem in different ways. Smaller chapters may have not taken the matter very seriously out of naivete. Harlem CORE and Brooklyn CORE though were aware of potential agents and informants from an early date. With Harlem CORE, members were not automatically accepted. There was a procedure which sometimes included following new members for a time.
FBI documents, though heavily redacted, confirmed such suspicions and list how several NYC chapters by 1964 were under surveillance and had been infiltrated.
The most well known case of police infiltration of an NYC CORE chapter has to do with Raymond Woodall, aka Raymond Wood, a Black officer in the Bureau of Special Services (BOSS), an agency within the New York Police Department (NYPD) tasked with gathering intelligence on political activists. His successful infiltration of Bronx CORE resulted in the arrests of chairman Herb Callender and John Valentine in an action that Callender insisted was first suggested by Wood.
Wood's reach extended far beyond Bronx CORE. He was also spying, for example, on the other uptown chapters. He was well known around Harlem CORE for attending meetings and socializing at their fund raising events.
In 1967, Wood testified against East River CORE's Blyden Jackson during congressional hearings before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). As part of an investigation into 'subversive influences in riots, looting and burning.', Wood testified against Jackson for being a communist.