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The Spook Who Sat by the Door

(African American Life)

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  1,311 ratings  ·  95 reviews
A classic in the black literary tradition, The Spook Who Sat by the Door is both a comment on the civil rights problems in the United States in the late 60s and a serious attempt to focus on the issue of black militancy.

Dan Freeman, the "spook who sat by the door," is enlisted in the CIA's elitist espionage program. Upon mastering agency tactics, however, he drops out to
Kindle Edition, 257 pages
Published June 10th 2017 (first published March 1969)
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4.36  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,311 ratings  ·  95 reviews

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Grady McCallie
The Spook Who Sat by the Door tells the story of Dan Freeman, an intelligent and 'naturally athletic' man from the ghetto who becomes the first black CIA agent, then resigns and returns home to Chicago to work with what would now be called 'at risk' youth. To his white bosses and funders, he appears to be 'tame' and eager to please; meanwhile, he is actually training street gangs to become a revolutionary insurgency, which launches during race riots near the end of the book. As a middle class wh ...more
I once read this book for class and fell head over hills for Greenlee's talent for summing up what it means to enact a revolution for change in the African-American community. In our current atmosphere of #BlackLivesMatter, the need to understand the mechanisms of revolting and the tactics that should and should not be used are important.

This book packs a punch in it's blunt use of racial slurs, violence, and intellect. If you are not a mature reader who can look beyond the surface, this book ma
Nandi Crawford
Probably one of the best books I have read in so long. from start to finish it was the bomb, and what gets me is that Urban Fiction is hailed as this and that, but I am positive that if they got a hold of THIS book, they'd change their minds quick on what is good or not. But back to the book. this book was published in 1969 by a brother who had similar experiences. Somehow, the book was made into a movie, which I also own and I had watched first before reading the book. anyhow, you have a congre ...more
Crystal  Belle
Jan 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
the revolution will not be televised.
Printable Tire
At first, I thought "Spook" was going to be a broad satire of racism in America in the 60's, using caricatures as characters. But then I realized it's only a broad satire for its enemies: the white liberal do-gooders, bourgeoisie black fakers and political hacks who remain cartoons throughout. The rest is far-fetched blue prints for Armageddon.

The protagonist is a familiar character: the cold, calculating, superiority-driven mastermind who's an expert in martial arts, full of sexual virility, an
Dave B.
This book was exceptional because of the underlying humanity detailed by the main character, Freeman. The author paints a very real dividing line between the desire to be accepted in the social norms of America and the desire to embrace one's own cultural and racial background. This particular story is about an African American man that seeks to get into the system and learn America's political and military points of view in order to turn that against the status quo. This story plays on the fear ...more
Jun 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Damn, but this was good and hell of enjoyable. It moves fast, it's got that pulp feel where you always know the color of the whiskey label and the size of the man's lapels. It made me think of Gil Scott Heron's The Revolution Will Not Be Televised and this is a tale of revolution pure and simple, taking everything positive in the biggest baddest gangs and turning them into a force for a racist government to reckon with. For just a taste of the prose
Drop those names: doctors I have known, lawyer
Dec 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Saw the movie years ago; this book does not disappoint. I'm halfway through + am thinking about how interesting it is in conversation with 'Django Unchained,' the current political climate, and the bad ass protagonist cannon. Can't wait to talk to someone about this book. Can't wait to start giving the book to folks as gifts, Can't wait to finish it.
Jul 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sam Greenlee's scope is amazing. I am still trying to figure out how he got this published in the 60's.
Sep 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Back in the day, this book was a revelation to me.. it made me proud to be a black women.
Walter O'Bryant
Jul 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of my favorite books. I read it at an impressionable age and in many ways tried to emulate the protagonist. Now I'm trying to emulate the author!
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is not a book that I would reach for on my own. At the pressing of a friend who was eager to get my take on the book, I moved it to the top of my list and finished it.

This is the story of an African- American male who on the surface to whites, would be viewed as incompetent, a threat, and dangerous- but at the same time, good enough to serve their purpose. To blacks, he is part of the "elite, educated and status driven" class that try to behave like whites and forget where they come f
 Imani ♥ ☮
Dec 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book so that I could watch the movie in good faith. I was not expecting much on account of I had never heard of this book outside of Twitter. I did not get the pleasure to read this for school or anything (that would have been amazing). Nevertheless, upon reading just a few pages of this book I realized that I had been missing out! This book isn't simply chronicling a Black man's journey in the CIA or anything like that. It's not simply about being "the only one". In this book contai ...more
Jackson Matthews
very good story! I am so pleased to have been introduced to it. It is reminiscent of Margaret MEade's a few good people can change the world.
Aug 23, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Miss by: neighbor's friends
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fast paced and cool like a good pulp movie. Many of the dialogue exchanges between the main character and white characters in the book are especially painful to read, painful like nausea inducing and that's just how the main character feels as well we find out sometimes. The dialogue exchanges between him and the people he considers bourgeoisie blacks are similarly tense and disappointing/quietly upsetting. And the descriptions of police and state brutality against Black people are absolutely NO ...more
Aug 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic
Impotent black fantasy of a doomsday that simply cannot happen. Don't get me wrong; I love the book. I love its pacing, its sense of timing, of language. I identify with the sense of determination, with its attempt to find an answer and with its single-minded protagonist. I'm simply angry because this stands out, along with Chester Himes' Plan B, as a story of action to meet headlong a challenge and condition, in the midst of a reading public too apathetic to give a shit or too comfy in their co ...more
Sep 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: revolutionaries with hard-ons for armed struggle
A blistering read. A black revolutionary joins the CIA and learns all about revolutions overseas, then quits and uses his knowledge to organize a street gang into a revolutionary cadre. When the Detroit ghetto rises up, the cadre attacks the National Guard, sends out organizers to other major cities to organize cadre there, and the Black revolution breaks out across the United States. Tragically, it is not a feminist book.
This book was recommended to me years ago but I decided recently that I would read it. I was not disappointed. I won't give a long drawn out review but I will say, those that are interested in the well being and seeing 'black' people progress as a whole will not be disappointed. Just imagine if every 'black' person read this book and took it to heart?
Apr 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fun read. Written in the 60s about an African-American guy who goes to work for the CIA and then uses what he learned.
Jul 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: iah-207, school
Pretty awesome book. Better than I thought it would be. Again I have to read this again for class so will save my review until then. Can't wait to see the movie!
Lesia Quamina
Jul 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love this book. It is a must read.
Apr 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
LOVE IT! A must read!
Mar 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How is it possible that I did t read this book in the late 60s?
Nov 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Okay, before I start my review, can someone tell me if this is literary fiction? I get the feeling it is, but I need a second opinion.

Anyway, on to the review!

First off, can we appreciate how symbolic Freeman's name is?

Anyway, I was surprised to find that I loved the style of writing, despite it being so far from the style of my usual reads. The tone mixed an urban roughness with fantastic imagery. It's not the most gorgeous prose, but the characterization and setting are very strong.

Jun 21, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such a unique book!

It starts off very well. The first few chapters describing Senator Hennington and Dan Freeman's training in the CIA are very funny and tightly written.

I really enjoyed the biting satiric take on hypocritical white liberals and the snobbish black middle class.

But when Freeman makes contact with the gang it starts feeling a bit predictable because you know exactly how it will play out.

Still, I enjoyed seeing the plan unfold, even though it was a bit unrealistic how everything wo
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found out about this book from Nipsey’s album Victory Lap. It provides an inside look at a black CIA agent (or “spook”) who decided to take the very tactics that the CIA used and create his own group from an already established gang, the Cobras. He incorporated the same process and infiltrated the Chicago police department during a bloody summer following an officer involved shooting that left a black male dead.

Now remember this book was written in 1964. Wayyyy before the Black Lives Matter m
Destanye Baldwin
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Billed on the paperback jacket as "the first black nationalist novel," this is a quick, engaging book for those interested in American culture, race, and urban affairs. Dan Freeman, the titular "spook," comes from the ghettos of Chicago to become the first African-American CIA agent. After a few years at the agency, he leaves to take a social service agency job back in Chicago and surreptitiously plan a revolutionary uprising against police brutality and white supremacy. If that sounds like your ...more
napoleon wells
Sep 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Way better than the movie

After hearing about the book and the movie based on the book from Tariq Nasheed, I first saw the movie and then decided to download the book.

A lot of the things in the book , I adapted to my own life. Such as waking up early in the morning, reading a book or articles about notable figures, events or developing an assortment of new skills that could help me currently or in the near future.

I won't spoil the ending of both the movie or the book. But I will say they both wi
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Black Coffee: The Spook Who Sat by the Door 20 13 Jun 14, 2014 09:23AM  

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Elder Sam Greenlee is an African American writer of novels, screeplays, stage plays, and poems. He has been a social activist since the age of 15.

His first well known and most controversal novel was The Spook Who Sat by the Door published in 1968. He also co-wrote the screeplay adaption of the novel. The film was released in 1973. In 1990 Greenlee was the Illinois poet laureate.

Other books in the series

African American Life (1 - 10 of 44 books)
  • The Autobiography of William Sanders Scarborough: An American Journey from Slavery to Scholarship
  • Bearing Witness to African American Literature: Validating and Valorizing Its Authority, Authenticity, and Agency
  • Bobweaving Detroit: The Selected Poems of Murray Jackson
  • Caribbean Labor and Politics: Legacies of Cheddi Jagan and Michael Manley
  • Churches and Urban Government in Detroit and New York, 1895-1994
  • Coleman Young And Detroit Politics: From Social Activist to Power Broker (African American Life Series)
  • The Concept of Self: A Study of Black Identity and Self-Esteem
  • Dear Chester, Dear John: Letters Between Chester Hines and John A. Williams
  • Discarded Legacy: Politics and Poetics in the Life of Frances E.W. Harper, 1825-1911
  • Dreaming Suburbia: Detroit and the Production of Postwar Space and Culture
“By now, Freeman knew his opponent. You'd be dangerous in an alley, thought Free man, but you hung yourself up with judo. Karate, or jujitsu, maybe, to slow me down with the chops and kicks. But there is just no way you can throw me in judo, white boy. He wondered whether to fight, or to continue on the defense. He looked at Calhoun, squatting Japanese-style on the other side of the mat, the hatred and contempt naked on his face. No, he thought, even if I blow my scene, I got to kick this ofay's ass. When you grab me again, whitey, you are going to have two handfuls of 168 pounds of pure black hell.” 0 likes
“Whites were fools and one had constantly to fight in order not to underestimate their power and danger, because a powerful and dangerous fool is not to be underestimated. Add the elements of hypocrisy and fear and one had an extremely volatile combination. It was a combination that could easily blow the country, even the world, apart. In” 0 likes
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