Edna Griffin: Communism and the Civil Rights Movement


Edna Griffin was an African American woman who was a strong fighter for equal rights. During the civil rights movement, police were often involved to deal with the large crowds of people during protests and protestors often received criminal charges. Many protesters were arrested during this time. In Edna Griffin’s case, the FBI was involved to investigate a letter that they believed was sent by her. The letter was about being a part of the Communist party, which was against the law. This particular document was directed towards the director of the FBI, regarding Edna’s case. This document was created to investigate Edna Griffin’s involvement with the communist party, because of her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.

The middle paragraph of the document explains that an agent in the Field Division has collected a known sample of Edna Griffin’s handwriting. It is vital for the FBI to be as thorough as possible, because they want all the evidence to stack up against Edna in order to support their claim of her involvement in Communism. USM online claims, during the Civil Rights Movement multiple groups used an alleged ‘communist threat’ to keep a large segment of the American public from sympathizing with civil rights activists (Communism and Civil Rights). “Government agencies… labeled civil rights activists as communists” (Communism and Civil Rights). The FBI was trying to take a leader of the Civil Rights Movement and charge her as a criminal in order to control the movement. These facts are why the FBI was trying to make Edna Griffin out to be a villain.

The last paragraph of this document is the request of a handwriting analysis to determine weather or not Edna Griffin wrote the letter. The document also explains the recipient of this letter, and describes them as a known Communist supporter. It is well known that during this time Communists in America were looked at in the same light as terrorists At this time, “political opinion is restricted by various laws aimed at Communists,” according to Jstor Volume 1 (Civil Rights). Having this information in the document gives the reader the ammunition to side with the FBI’s claim in saying that Edna is guilty for sending the letter because she was collaborating with communists. The FBI is using the pathos of the reader to gain their trust, or more importantly, lessen their trust in Edna Griffin. Being in the communist party is related to being a part of the Civil Rights Movement because in her letter Edna writes, “Please find enclosed the first part of our contribution to the defense fund of our Party, a true and steadfast friend of the Negro people”. Given Edna’s leadership status in fighting for African American’s equal rights, it is easy to believe that Edna would support the Communist party if they supported African Americans. According to Foster, “the appearance of the Communist Party upon the political scene… raised the whole struggle of the Negro people to a higher level in their fight for fundamental human rights,” proving that Communist were the ones who supported the Civil Rights Movement (Foster, W. pg 232). Waldorf website says “Griffin continued to be an activist and participated in numerous protests” providing evidence that she was going to fight for what she believed in even if others saw it as wrong (2015).

To the left of the very top of the body of the document and there it says “ATTN: IDENTIFICATION DIVISION” in all capital letters and is even underlined. Grabbing the attention of the reader and pulling their eyes to this is significant because this is the intended audience of the document. The identification division of the FBI will play an important role in this case because they will determine if the handwriting is a match or not. In other words, the falsifiability of this case is in the hands of these people. Edna has encountered the justice system once before with good luck though. One day, Edna was refused service at a store in Des Moines one day. Enraged by the incident Edna organized boycotts, sit-ins, and picketed outside of the store. The owner of the store was taken to court, and after going all the way to the Supreme Court, was charged fifty dollars for her wrongdoings and Edna was rewarded one dollar in damages (2015).

In the end, the document examined Edna Griffin’s involvement with Communism due to her leadership role in the Civil Rights Movement. The Christine Wilson Metal for Equality and Justice book describes Edna Griffin as “The Rosa Parks of Iowa” and that was a threatening thought to many people in America during the start, as well as throughout, Civil Rights Movement (Griffin E., 1998). She was a strong woman and was not going to let a court case get in the way of fighting for what she believed in.


Civil Rights in the United States. Jstor, vol 13, No 1. Retrieved from

Communism and Civil Rights. USM. Retrieved from http://www.usm.edu/crdp/html/cd/communism.htm


Griffin E. (1998). Christine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice.

(2015). Edna Griffin: The Rosa Parks of Iowa. Retrieved from


Foster, William Z. (1952). History of the Communist Party of the United States. New   York: International Publishers.