Stephen Cohen (D-TN), the U.S. Representative from Tennessee’s 9th congressional district since 2007, has reintroduced a bill to strip J. Edgar Hoover’s name from the FBI building in Washington, DC. Cohen was inspired to take charge after seeing Shaka King’s “Judas and the Black Messiah.” As reported by Deadline, Cohen is working with lawmakers on the bill in the aftermath of the movie, which tells the story of Illinois Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), whose death was tied to party infiltration by FBI informant William O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield). In the film, Hoover is played by Martin Sheen.
“The movie is a clear depiction of [Hoover’s] efforts to impeded the civil rights movement,” Cohen said. Though “Judas and the Black Messiah” hasn’t screened in Washington due to the pandemic, Cohen reportedly saw the movie several weeks ago and the next day got to work with his staff on reintroducing legislation to remove Hoover’s name. The building was named after Hoover following his death in 1972, around three years after the events in the movie.
Cohen said that Hoover “doesn’t deserve the honor and recognition of having the nation’s premiere law enforcement agency headquarters named for him. The civil rights we enjoy today are in spite of J. Edgar Hoover, not because of him.” According to Deadline, the bill has around a dozen co-sponsors.
Cohen remarked that he has gotten backlash from Republicans who attribute his move toward legislation as the product of cancel culture. He also said that Hoover’s actions “can be looked upon from a different perspective,” especially following the Black Lives Matter protests of summer 2020.
Cohen said the legislation is not a “front burner issue” in the house just yet, considering that Congress is still grappling with the pandemic in this country. But Cohen said he is more optimistic about the bill going into effect. He first introduced the legislation in 2015 after he saw a documentary from investigative journalist Michael Isikoff titled “Uniquely Nasty: The Government War on Gays,” which centered on Hoover’s efforts to remove LGBTQ figures from the government in the 1950s.
“Judas and the Black Messiah” is an Oscar contender this year, with many predicting Kaluuya to win the Best Supporting Actor race after earning top honors at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards for his turn as Fred Hampton.