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Records of the FBI - Classification 44: Civil Rights

Though this classification contains records predating 1924, it was established as "Civil Rights and Domestic Violence" in a January 1924 Hoover memorandum. The legislative bases for the investigations were the civil rights acts passed during the Reconstruction period, codified in Title 18, sections 241 and 242. These prohibit actions or conspiracies of two or more people to stop citizens in their free exercise of Federal rights secured by the Constitution and laws of the U.S. Section 242 is directed specifically towards law enforcement officers and state officials, "persons acting under the color of law," for the same offenses. Sections 243-245 of Title 18 and section 1973 of Title 42 are also now included in the classification; they derive from the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Civil Rights Act of 1968, and Voting Rights Act of 1975.

When this classification was established in the early 1920s, the investigations were directed primarily towards the Ku Klux Klan, and the first files are "state files" on KKK activities. In the mid- and late 1930s, some investigations of violence against labor unions and organizers were included under the aegis of the Wagner Act, but beginning with World War II, the investigations increasingly focused on racial disturbances and police brutality. With the passage of civil rights legislation in the 1960s, the classification has close ties with files in Classifications 56 (Election Laws), 157 (Civil Unrest), 170 (Extremist Informants), and 176 (Anti-Riot Laws). Several other classifications including 7 (Kidnapping), 100 (Domestic Security), 137 (Informants), and 173 (Public Accommodations) are also closely related to investigation in Classification 44.

The FBI and DOJ worked closely on the openings of cases in this classification, and until the Kennedy administration, the FBI chose to define Federal, and thus FBI, jurisdiction very narrowly. Through most of that period, Field Offices had to obtain approval from Headquarters and Department of Justice (DOJ) before opening a preliminary investigation. In 1954, Headquarters reiterated that policy by not allowing Field Offices to initiate any investigations of school discrimination cases. In December 1961, the Field Offices were given the power to initiate preliminary investigations. In 1966 they were given broader authority to work with U.S. attorneys on civil rights matters. Until 1964, the Field Offices were required to consult with local police officials before opening cases that might involve their officers. That necessity ended in 1964, but close relations between FBI investigators and local officials continued. Field Offices had to gain Headquarters approval before dealing with major civil rights actions or mass demonstrations, and that requirement continues today. As the civil rights movement quieted in the 1970s, the investigations in Classification 44 shifted focus to police and prison brutality complaints.

NARA online catalog descriptions of holdings for Classification 44: Civil Rights

Headquarters Files

Record GroupNARA IdentifierSeries Title
652329984Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Headquarters Case Files, 1920-1978
652373379Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Headquarters Case Files, 1923-1972 (Index Cards to)

Field Office Files

Record GroupNARA IdentifierSeries Title
652537946Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Albany Field Office Case Files, 1942-1986
652538378Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Albuquerque Field Office Case Files, 1948-1989
652544371Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Alexandria Field Office Case Files, 1973-1980
652544375Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Anchorage Field Office Case Files, 1973-1978
652544459Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Atlanta Field Office Case Files, 1952-1990
652544515Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Baltimore Field Office Case Files, 1952-1991
652544533Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Birmingham Field Office Case Files, 1942-1989
652544564Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Boston Field Office Case Files, 1938-1988
652550913Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Buffalo Field Office Case Files, 1944-1990
652553372Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Butte Field Office Case Files, 1942-1985
652554689Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Charlotte Field Office Case Files, 1956-1978
652554691Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Chicago Field Office Case Files, 1945-1983
652554693Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Cincinnati Field Office Case Files, 1952-1986
652554694Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Cleveland Field Office Case Files, 1952-1989
652554696Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Columbia Field Office Case Files, 1965-1985
652554698Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Dallas Field Office Case Files, 1964-1991
652554700Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Denver Field Office Case Files, 1952-1978
652554701Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Detroit Field Office Case Files, 1965-1980
652554702Classification 44 (Civil Rights) El Paso Field Office Case Files, 1952-1978
652554704Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Honolulu Field Office Case Files, 1970-1984
652554707Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Houston Field Office Case Files, 1946-1989
652554709Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Indianapolis Field Office Case Files, 1955-1989
652554710Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Jackson Field Office Case Files, 1964-1986
652554711Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Jacksonville Field Office Case Files, 1956-1998
652570688Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Knoxville Field Office Case Files, 1952-1982
652573067Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Las Vegas Field Office Case Files, 1964-1991
652575604Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Little Rock Field Office Case Files, 1946-1978
652579800Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Los Angeles Field Office Case Files
652579811Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Louisville Field Office Case Files, 1952-1977
652580641Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Memphis Field Office Case Files, 1959-1977
652580650Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Miami Field Office Case Files, 1952-1990
652612135Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Milwaukee Field Office Case Files, 1952-1982
652619232Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Minneapolis Field Office Case Files, 1940-1981
652619370Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Mobile Field Office Case Files, 1953-1988
652641968Classification 44 (Civil Rights) New Haven Field Office Case Files, 1958-1984
652641991Classification 44 (Civil Rights) New Orleans Field Office Case Files, 1965-1993
652642330Classification 44 (Civil Rights) New York Field Office Case Files, 1944-1990
652637350Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Newark Field Office Case Files, 1967-1980
652642425Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Norfolk Field Office Case Files, 1944-1989
652642459Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Oklahoma Field Office Case Files, 1946-1988
652645438Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Omaha Field Office Case Files, 1937-1977
652645694Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Philadelphia Field Office Case Files, 1944-1996
652663331Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Phoenix Field Office Case Files, 1952-1989
652663483Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Pittsburgh Field Office Case Files, 1958-1992
652668808Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Portland Field Office Case Files, 1946-1997
652668916Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Richmond Field Office Case Files, 1958-1991
652669066Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Sacramento Field Office Case Files, 1966-1990
652674638Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Salt Lake City Field Office Case Files, 1946-1989
652675071Classification 44 (Civil Rights) San Antonio Field Office Case Files, 1944-1980
652749716Classification 44 (Civil Rights) San Diego Field Office Case Files, 1944-1989
652751612Classification 44 (Civil Rights) San Francisco Field Office Case Files, 1952-1989
652751636Classification 44 (Civil Rights) San Juan Field Office Case Files, 1966-1988
652765799Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Savannah Field Office Case Files, 1956-1983
652768569Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Seattle Field Office Case Files, 1946-1999
652768577Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Springfield Field Office Case Files, 1946-1981
652674612Classification 44 (Civil Rights) St. Louis Field Office Case Files, 1944-1984
652770142Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Tampa Field Office Case Files, 1962-1988
652774936Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Washington Field Office Case Files, 1952-1986

Additional Classification 44 Records

Record GroupNARA IdentifierSeries Title
65568088Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Released Under The Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Disclosure Acts

Undescribed Records

Some records under Classification 44: Civil Rights are not yet described in NARA's online catalog. Please contact NARA's Special Access Program at with your reference request.

Record Group Finding Aid EntrySeries Title
65UD UP 39Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Headquarters and Memphis Field Office Case Files Pertaining to the Investigation of the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
65UD UP 40Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Headquarters Case File and Index Pertaining to the Investigation of the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

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