Fact vs Fiction: Godfather of Harlem season 3 episode 8 — did the CIA try to kill Che Guevara?

Arturo Del Puerto as Che Guevara talking in Godfather of Harlem season 3 episode 8
Arturo Del Puerto in Godfather of Harlem (Image credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.)

With a working knowledge that Malcolm X (Jason Alan Carvell) is in the crosshairs of both the CIA and FBI, Bumpy Johnson (Forest Whitaker) spends much of Godfather of Harlem season 3 episode 8 trying to save the civil rights leader from a dangerous political plot to assassinate him and Argentine Communist and Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara (Arturo Del Puerto). 

As seen in the series, the CIA was not a fan of the two joining forces to speak before the United Nations and saw a partnership as a threat to democracy, so they aimed to stop their rising power. However, is this hit job rooted in fact?

Elsewhere in the episode, Malcolm X works with author Alex Haley (Bowman Wright) in drafting a chapter about Bumpy Johnson for the Muslim minister's autobiography. However, Malcolm X later decides against including the new work. With that said, is there a missing chapter from the published version of the book? 

Here's what we found out. 

Did the CIA try to kill Che Guevara? 

Joel Marsh Garland as Wild Bill Harvey sitting at a desk in Godfather of Harlem season 3 episode 6

Joel Marsh in Godfather of Harlem (Image credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.)

The fiction
After season 3 episode 7, Johnson became aware that Malcolm X and Guevara's planned speech at the UN was on the radar of the FBI. Additionally, the Harlem kingpin discovered there was a CIA plot to take them both out. Fast forward to episode 8, titled "Homeland or Death," and Johnson spends the majority of the time trying to enact a counterplot to prevent any government-sanctioned hit from happening, even stopping Malcolm X from going to speak to the UN. 

While Johnson and his foot soldiers are able to prevent Malcolm from leaving his home, they had no way of stopping Guevara from going before the UN. However, Johnson's lieutenants are able to eliminate the CIA-paid assassins and keep them from taking an effective shot at the UN building where Guevara is speaking. Essentially, Johnson foiled the CIA murder plot. However, is any of this actually true? 

The fact
According to The New York Daily News, on Friday, December 11, 1964, Guevara was speaking before the General Assembly of the UN. While that was going on inside the UN headquarters, right outside in front of the building on First Ave., law enforcement was holding back a group of anti-Castro protestors. What these legal forces were not monitoring however was a lot 900 yards away across the East River. 

Around 12:10 pm ET, a bazooka was launched from the lot and a highly explosive shell was headed directly toward the UN building. However, the projectile fell short of the building into the river causing a geyser of a splash and violently shaking the headquarters. The failed assassination attempt claimed no victims. 

In terms of who was behind the plot, a group named the Black Front claimed responsibility. Specifically, Carlos Perez, Ignacio Nova and Guillermo Nova were the culprits, who had deep ties to the Cuban Nationalist Movement (the opposition to Fidel Castro's leadership). There are rumors of the CIA's involvement in this plan, but nothing has been substantiated by official documents. 

With that being said, according to PBS and the book Who Killed Che?: How the CIA Got Away with Murder, the CIA was actually connected to the Bolivian forces that wound up killing Guevara years later. You can hear a little more about it in the video below.  

Is there a missing chapter from Malcolm X's autobiography? 

Jason Alan Carvell as Malcolm X with a gun pointed at him in Godfather of Harlem season 3

Jason Alan Carvell in Godfather of Harlem season 3 (Image credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.)

The fiction
Although Malcolm X spends much of the episode trying to circumvent Johnson's overbearing protection, he also finds time to work with Haley to complete a draft of his autobiography. Before Haley considers the book to be complete, Malcolm X decides to add a section about Johnson. The civil rights leader strongly feels Johnson is a force to be reckoned with outside of his criminal dealings and could be a great asset to the fight for equality. Haley was initially opposed to the idea of including a chapter about the underworld boss, but winds up drafting something. 

However, Malcolm X later tells Haley to scrap the idea after he has a falling out with Johnson. In fact, Malcolm X rips the pages in half. Naturally one has to ask if the published version of the autobiography is missing a chapter.

The fact
To this day, The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley is widely celebrated as great literature. However, as it turns out, there is one chapter that never made it to the published version of the book. 

According to the History Channel, a chapter titled "The Negro" was left out. The chapter in many ways called out the Black community’s inability to rely on each other to rise above certain plights in life, and criticized the community’s reliance on a system he felt was designed to oppress them. It looks like Haley was the major reason why the chapter never made it into the book as he didn't seem to think it was cohesive with everything else he already wrote. 

The Godfather of Harlem airs new episodes Sundays on MGM Plus.    

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Terrell Smith

Terrell Smith has a diverse writing background having penned material for a wide array of clients including the federal government and Bravo television personalities.  When he’s not writing as Terrell, he’s writing under his pseudonym Tavion Scott, creating scripts for his audio drama podcasts. Terrell is a huge fan of great storytelling when it comes to television and film. Some of his favorite shows include The CrownWandaVision, Abbot Elementary and Godfather of HarlemAnd a fun fact is he's completely dialed into the TLC 90 Day Fiancé universe.