Poet and novelist Sam Greenlee in 1973. His movie, “The Spook Who Sat by the Door,” based on his book by the same name, became a classic in the black nationalist movement. (AP Photo)
Poet and novelist Sam Greenlee in 1973. His movie, “The Spook Who Sat by the Door,” based on his book by the same name, became a classic in the black nationalist movement. (AP Photo)
Poet and novelist Sam Greenlee in 1973. His movie, “The Spook Who Sat by the Door,” based on his book by the same name, became a classic in the black nationalist movement. (AP Photo)

(The Washington Post) – Sam Greenlee, a onetime Foreign Service officer whose 1969 novel and a subsequent film, both called “The Spook Who Sat by the Door,” became underground sensations during the black nationalist movement, died May 19 at his home in Chicago. He was 83.

The death was confirmed by a friend, Chicago-based filmmaker Pemon Rami, who did not cite a specific cause.

Mr. Greenlee joined the U.S. Information Agency in 1957 and was among the its first black officials to serve overseas. He was stationed in Iraq, Pakistan, Indonesia and Greece before quitting in 1965 to focus on writing.

In his novel, Mr. Greenlee drew on his work with USIA but transformed the central character in “The Spook Who Sat by the Door,” Dan Freeman, into a black CIA officer who quits the spy agency in disgust. Freeman returns to his native Chicago, where he puts his CIA training to use by organizing street gangs into a paramilitary black revolutionary movement that spreads nationwide.

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