Taking a Step in ‘The Spook Who Sat by the Door’


“The Spook Who Sat by the Door” Book Cover. Photo/ Wayne State University Press.

By: Zachary C. Young, Editor-in-Chief

“The Spook Who Sat by the Door” is a historical fiction book written by Sam Greenlee set in the late 1960’s. The book follows a Black man named Dan Freeman who becomes the first black officer in the CIA.

Originally published in 1969, the book was adapted to a movie by the same name in 1973.

The book takes you through Freeman’s journey as a CIA operative and ultimately the director of a private welfare organization in his hometown of Chicago that is aimed at reducing gang violence in the city.

Early in the book, Freeman is battling an identity crisis as a Black man employed by the government. He even refers to his CIA employment as “token integration” and himself as “the CIA Tom in Washington.”

While serving the United States in the military, and eventually the CIA, he learns militaristic tactics such as demolition, firearms training, hand to hand combatives, martial arts (judo, jujutsu and karate), mobility, organization, sabotage and subversion.

When he returns to Chicago, Freeman becomes the director of the Southside Youth Foundation in attempts to gain the trust of the gangs in the city, mainly the Cobras, who are regarded as the toughest gang in all of Chicago.

Once Freeman gains the trust of the gangs, he begins to teach them the militaristic knowledge and guerilla warfare he learned during his time with the CIA and military. Freeman names his recruits Freedom Fighters.

In response to the countless episodes of police brutality and government overreach in the Black communities of Chicago, Freeman finally feels the Freedom Fighters have been properly trained. So, they begin to attack various government buildings across the city and even kidnap an Army officer.

“The Spook Who Sat by the Door” was written and published during a critical point in American history in terms of race relations and civil rights.

For context, the book was published only 11 months after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King. The book has the ability to stir up emotions ranging from laughter, rage and even sadness. Its cultural significance is undeniable even to this day. It has even book promoted by the late rapper Nipsey Hussle.

This book is a must read for those interested in Black nationalism, social justice and even fiction in general. It is a good read year round, but is definitely worth checking out during Black History Month.

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