Judas and the Black Messiah has already won praise from the Critics’ Choice Awards, the Golden Globes and the American Film Institute and the film is expected to be a major player at the 2021 Academy Awards. But the critically acclaimed film starring Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield is also inspiring real political change in Washington D.C. The film has compelled Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee to reintroduce a bill to the House floor that proposes removing J. Edgar Hoover’s name from FBI headquarters.
The film chronicles the final months in the life of Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party. Hampton was assassinated in December 1969 during a police raid orchestrated by the FBI and an undercover informant named William O’Neal — the “Judas” to Hampton’s “black messiah.”
Ted Johnson of Deadline has reported that Cohen watched the film last month and was so moved by its message that he called his staff the next day and told them to start working on the reintroduction of the legislation.
“The movie is a clear depiction of his efforts to impede the Civil Rights Movement,” said Cohen in an interview. “[Hoover] doesn’t deserve the honor and recognition of having the nation’s premier law enforcement agency headquarters named for him. The civil rights we enjoy today are in spite of J. Edgar Hoover, not because of him.”
Although some Republican House members have called the bill another example of “cancel” culture, the bill already has nearly a dozen co-sponsors.
In an ironic twist, when Cohen originally introduced legislation in 2015 to rename the FBI’s main office at 935 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, he was also inspired by a film: the Yahoo! documentary, Uniquely Nasty: The Government’s War on Gays, which details Hoover’s efforts to remove gays and lesbians from the government in the 1950s.
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