This article revolves around a deceptively simple question: Why did the FBI investigate bandleader Duke Ellington, the African American capitalist, political conservative, and pronounced Christian, as a communist threat in the 1930s through the Cold War? Answering this question involves situating the FBI’s “domestic security” program as product and productive of overlapping racial and sexual politics and investigating the FBI’s anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Ellington’s early-career promoter Irving Mills (a.k.a. Isadore Minsky) was a Jewish communist intent on capitalizing on the racial transgressions of jazz pleasures. In telling this story, I further develop contemporary scholarship on the concept of racialized heteronationalism as nascent in surveillance and the state, as well as demonstrate the long history of US enforcement agencies’ reliance upon race and sexuality as categories for defining domestic security and surveillance protocols.

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