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Sun Aug 18, 2013, 07:49 AM

A page from history: Paul Robeson appears before HUAC

kpete has posted on GD an informative thread about Ronald Reagan's role as a "friendly witness" before the HUAC, proving once again just how much of a sniveling scumbag St. Ronnie really was. Now let's remember a man who stood up to HUAC...

http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/6440

“You Are the Un-Americans, and You Ought to be Ashamed of Yourselves”: Paul Robeson Appears Before HUAC
Testimony of Paul Robeson before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, June 12, 1956

Intro:
Many African-American witnesses subpoenaed to testify at the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) hearings in the 1950s were asked to denounce Paul Robeson (1888–1976) in order to obtain future employment. Robeson, an All-American football player and recipient of a Phi Beta Kappa key at Rutgers, received a law degree at Columbia. He became an internationally acclaimed concert performer and actor as well as a persuasive political speaker. In 1949, Robeson was the subject of controversy after newspapers reports of public statements that African Americans would not fight in “an imperialist war.” In 1950, his passport was revoked. Several years later, Robeson refused to sign an affidavit stating that he was not a Communist and initiated an unsuccessful lawsuit. In the following testimony to a HUAC hearing, ostensibly convened to gain information regarding his passport suit, Robeson refused to answer questions concerning his political activities and lectured bigoted Committee members Gordon H. Scherer and Chairman Francis E.Walter about African-American history and civil rights. In 1958, the Supreme Court ruled that a citizen’s right to travel could not be taken away without due process and Robeson’ passport was returned.

I am going to include here one passage from the transcript:

Mr. ROBESON: Could I say that the reason that I am here today, you know, from the mouth of the State Department itself, is: I should not be allowed to travel because I have struggled for years for the independence of the colonial peoples of Africa. For many years I have so labored and I can say modestly that my name is very much honored all over Africa, in my struggles for their independence. That is the kind of independence like Sukarno got in Indonesia. Unless we are double-talking, then these efforts in the interest of Africa would be in the same context. The other reason that I am here today, again from the State Department and from the court record of the court of appeals, is that when I am abroad I speak out against the injustices against the Negro people of this land. I sent a message to the Bandung Conference and so forth. That is why I am here. This is the basis, and I am not being tried for whether I am a Communist, I am being tried for fighting for the rights of my people, who are still second-class citizens in this United States of America. My mother was born in your state, Mr. Walter, and my mother was a Quaker, and my ancestors in the time of Washington baked bread for George Washington’s troops when they crossed the Delaware, and my own father was a slave. I stand here struggling for the rights of my people to be full citizens in this country. And they are not. They are not in Mississippi. And they are not in Montgomery, Alabama. And they are not in Washington. They are nowhere, and that is why I am here today. You want to shut up every Negro who has the courage to stand up and fight for the rights of his people, for the rights of workers, and I have been on many a picket line for the steelworkers too. And that is why I am here today. . . .

So here we are in 2013, still fighting so that all may have an equal opportunity to vote, and for the rights of workers to demand a fair wage.

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Reply A page from history: Paul Robeson appears before HUAC (Original post)
theHandpuppet Aug 2013 OP
merrily Aug 2013 #1
HardTimes99 Aug 2013 #25
merrily Aug 2013 #39
HardTimes99 Aug 2013 #44
CBGLuthier Aug 2013 #41
HardTimes99 Aug 2013 #43
BOG PERSON Aug 2013 #33
Bluenorthwest Aug 2013 #2
theHandpuppet Aug 2013 #8
PowerToThePeople Aug 2013 #14
theHandpuppet Aug 2013 #17
HardTimes99 Aug 2013 #24
theHandpuppet Aug 2013 #28
HardTimes99 Aug 2013 #30
theHandpuppet Aug 2013 #32
merrily Aug 2013 #3
theHandpuppet Aug 2013 #9
malaise Aug 2013 #4
theHandpuppet Aug 2013 #10
malaise Aug 2013 #11
HardTimes99 Aug 2013 #26
theHandpuppet Aug 2013 #37
HardTimes99 Aug 2013 #38
malthaussen Aug 2013 #5
greiner3 Aug 2013 #6
malthaussen Aug 2013 #7
malaise Aug 2013 #13
adieu Aug 2013 #20
HardTimes99 Aug 2013 #27
Brickbat Aug 2013 #12
Starry Messenger Aug 2013 #15
theHandpuppet Aug 2013 #19
Starry Messenger Aug 2013 #21
malthaussen Aug 2013 #22
theHandpuppet Aug 2013 #23
Starry Messenger Aug 2013 #34
HardTimes99 Aug 2013 #29
loudsue Aug 2013 #16
theHandpuppet Aug 2013 #18
HardTimes99 Aug 2013 #31
loudsue Aug 2013 #35
theHandpuppet Aug 2013 #36
kskiska Aug 2013 #40
MelungeonWoman Aug 2013 #42

Response to theHandpuppet (Original post)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 08:44 AM

1. The American Communist Party advocated equal rights and fairness to workers.

I cannot image why that would have appealed to an African American man born in 1898, especially one who aspired to succeed in American show business.




Paul Leroy Robeson (/ˈroʊbsən/ ROHB-sən April 9, 1898 – January 23, 1976) was an African-American singer and actor who became involved with the Civil Rights Movement. At university, he was an outstanding American football player, then had an international career in singing, as well as acting in theater and cinema. He became politically involved in response to the Spanish Civil War, Fascism, and social injustices. His advocacy of anti-imperialism, affiliation with Communism, and his criticism of the US government caused him to be blacklisted during McCarthyism. Ill health forced him into retirement from his career. To the end he remained unapologetic for the unpopular political stances he took.

Robeson won an academic scholarship to Rutgers University, where he became a football All-American and the class valedictorian. He received his LL.B. from Columbia Law School, while playing in the National Football League (NFL). At Columbia, he sang and acted in off-campus productions and, after graduating, he became a participant in the Harlem Renaissance with performances in The Emperor Jones and All God's Chillun Got Wings. Robeson initiated his international artistic résumé with a theatrical role in Great Britain, settling in London for the next several years with his wife Essie.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Robeson

Can't imagine what the hell he should have been apologetic about. The country should have apologized to him.

It's amazing that he ever got into Rutgers and Columbia Law back in the days of quotas for women, Jews, African Americans, etc., let alone being valedictorian at Rutgers. Wish I could have heard him speak.

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Response to merrily (Reply #1)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 11:41 AM

25. He was one of the great male opera singers, from what I have heard. I'm not a big

 

fan of opera as a musical genre, so I'm only relaying second-hand reports.

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Response to HardTimes99 (Reply #25)

Tue Aug 20, 2013, 10:25 AM

39. I've heard bits of his singing.

Good opera singers are great, but people who beat the odds and speak out against injustice to their own personal disadvantage are much rarer. He was a great singer, but I wish I could have heard him speak.

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Response to merrily (Reply #39)

Tue Aug 20, 2013, 10:58 AM

44. All true. I share your wish. - nt

 

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Response to HardTimes99 (Reply #25)

Tue Aug 20, 2013, 10:41 AM

41. Not just Opera

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Response to CBGLuthier (Reply #41)

Tue Aug 20, 2013, 10:50 AM

43. Thanks for that annotation. I can see I need to do some review of

 

his career and achievements.

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Response to merrily (Reply #1)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 12:19 PM

33. read about the CPUSA and the civil rights movement

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Communist_Party_USA_and_African_Americans

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Response to theHandpuppet (Original post)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 08:45 AM

2. Reading DU gives me the impression many don't know who Robeson was or what HUAC was at all.

 

nt

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Response to Bluenorthwest (Reply #2)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 09:30 AM

8. That had occurred to me

A couple of weeks ago or so DUer Taverner had posted an interesting thread about the Hollywood Ten.
http://www.democraticunderground.com/10023418512
In reading the responses I came to realize how many folks were not familiar with that particular period in our history and was reminded of that again when kpete posted the current thread about Ronald Reagan having been an FBI informer. (I also recommend for anyone interested in this sorry chapter in our history to read Lillian Hellman's Scoundrel Time)

So I thought it might be a good idea to post some threads about certain important chapters in our history, ones you rarely read about or see via the mainstream media productions. Again, a recent thread by bvar22 regarding the omission of labor movement history from our textbooks underscores the need to make sure such topics are revisited.

Re: Paul Robeson. Yes, I wondered how many would recognize the name of this towering figure whose name and story seem to have faded from history. Deliberately erased, I suspect. I certainly hope this thread will encourage people to find out more about this remarkable man.

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Response to theHandpuppet (Reply #8)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 10:15 AM

14. I think NPR did some stuff on him this last spring

 

I bought his biography at that point. I had never heard of him before then. The great purge and history rewrite has been fairly successful.

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Response to PowerToThePeople (Reply #14)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 10:54 AM

17. Yes, wasn't it?

The name of Paul Robeson has been effectively expunged from the history books. Even today it would seem the telling of his story is taboo, the frightening and shameful spectre of HUAC still hanging over Hollywood. Think about it -- one of the most compelling chapters in American history involving scores of famous personages, even an American President, yet how many movies have been made about that dark time? There have been references to it in film, usually cloaked, as in The Manchurian Candidate.

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Response to Bluenorthwest (Reply #2)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 11:35 AM

24. Truer words have seldom been uttered here. (I actually saw someone post that

 

Reagan testified before McCarthy and did not bother to correct the technical error, since I sympathized with the sentiment of the person posting.)

HUAC was the House Un-American Activities Committee. Joseph McCarthy was a U.S. Senator. Different bodies and different hearings.

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Response to HardTimes99 (Reply #24)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 11:45 AM

28. I have a tendency to do that myself

That whole period of anti-communist hysteria tends to morph into one unpalatable dose of nasty in my mind. So yes, you're very right to point out that HUAC and the McCarthy hearings were different animals. Apologies on my part.

BTW, I have since edited my own post to that very worthy thread.

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Response to theHandpuppet (Reply #28)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 11:55 AM

30. Wow, I didn't realize it was your post I had read. In any case, no personal criticism was

 

intended whatsoever. (My wife tells me I'm way too anal-retentive when it comes to historical trivia

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Response to HardTimes99 (Reply #30)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 12:06 PM

32. No, no, I think it was important that you made that point

We're all trying to revisit some important chapters in our history that have been ignored or erased so it's important that we tell the stories correctly. I appreciated your post.

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Response to theHandpuppet (Original post)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 08:45 AM

3. P.S. Thanks for this post.

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Response to merrily (Reply #3)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 09:31 AM

9. You're very welcome.

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Response to theHandpuppet (Original post)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 08:47 AM

4. Thanks for this great post

I grew up listening to Robeson - my father adored him. My great aunt knew him. He was a great man.

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Response to malaise (Reply #4)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 09:31 AM

10. What a voice.

What a voice, what a mind, what a man.

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Response to theHandpuppet (Reply #10)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 09:54 AM

11. Last year the US Embassy Cultural Folks here hosted a one man play

on Robeson - with all the lovely music to boot. It was fabulous. I can never get enough of that voice.

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Response to malaise (Reply #4)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 11:43 AM

26. We are lucky to get 3-4 Robesons per century, if that. - nt

 

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Response to HardTimes99 (Reply #26)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 04:23 PM

37. We could surely use 3-4 of them right now.

It's going to take some truly brave souls to lead us out of this dark tunnel.

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Response to theHandpuppet (Reply #37)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 04:41 PM

38. I was very impressed with some of the youth I met in 2011 at Occupy Los Angeles, a movement

 

that at least nominally eschewed the very notion of hierarchical leaders. Those OLA folks put my generation (ultra-late Baby Boomer, born in 1959) to shame. My generation rightly earned Tom Wolfe's sobriquet "The Me Generation" -- been trying to live that down ever since.

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Response to theHandpuppet (Original post)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 08:51 AM

5. Paul Robeson should be enshrined among the great men of US history...

... but since he never generated a "movement" behind him, he has largely been confined to the dustbin of history.

-- Mal

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Response to malthaussen (Reply #5)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 09:13 AM

6. "...confined to the dustbin of history."

 

Au contrair, movie buffs, those not watching the current, and mostly crap, movies check out Paul's movies.

You will change your opinion that he is of that 'dustbin' of history as so many of these buffs have discovered.

Just sayin'.

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Response to greiner3 (Reply #6)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 09:17 AM

7. I routinely post Robeson singing "Joe Hill" everywhere I go on the 'net...

... but whatever movie or music buffs may think about him, I doubt one person in ten randomly-chosen knows his name.

-- Mal

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Response to malthaussen (Reply #7)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 10:06 AM

13. Whenever we have family reunions one of the sisters

comes up with our farewell song. At the last one we began our sing-along and I don't know what led me to Vera Lyn's We'll Meet Again. Well surprise surprise one of my under 30 year old nephews knew all the words.

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Response to malthaussen (Reply #5)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 11:04 AM

20. I have a number of CDs

 

of Paul Robeson. One of the best singers I've ever heard. Great technique as well as incredible passion, and sometimes pathos, in the voice.

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Response to malthaussen (Reply #5)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 11:45 AM

27. As a first-year student at the U. of Missouri, my TA in Intro to Philosophy was a

 

Last edited Sun Aug 18, 2013, 04:55 PM - Edit history (1)

member of the Communist Party-USA and introduced us to Robeson, someone whose name I had never heard mentioned before.

As long as communism (Marxism) survivies as a movement, Robeson will stay outside the dustbin of history. Long after Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have been relegated there. At least that's my hope.

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Response to theHandpuppet (Original post)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 10:04 AM

12. K&R for a truly great man.

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Response to Starry Messenger (Reply #15)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 11:04 AM

19. That is a great essay!

I hope everyone here will make it a point to read it. In fact, there are so many great quotes within it I'm going to change my sig line.

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Response to theHandpuppet (Reply #19)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 11:21 AM

21. Thank you, theHandpuppet!

I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for this great OP!

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Response to theHandpuppet (Reply #19)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 11:24 AM

22. It's a good quote...

... but note that the attribution should be to Wendell Phillips: Robeson is quoting him in the book.

Unfortunately, the blog cites him as Wendell Potter, who is an altogether different gentleman.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wendell_Phillips
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wendell_Potter

-- Mal

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Response to malthaussen (Reply #22)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 11:27 AM

23. Thanks, Mal.

I shall edit forthwith.

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Response to malthaussen (Reply #22)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 12:47 PM

34. Thanks for the PM.

It's a quote from the book, not my attribution.

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Response to Starry Messenger (Reply #15)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 11:49 AM

29. Bravo! Great piece on a great world-historical figure - nt

 

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Response to theHandpuppet (Original post)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 10:44 AM

16. Great Post!! We need more like this to remind us of the courageous people who have

fought a very unjust system here at home.

Thanks!

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Response to loudsue (Reply #16)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 10:57 AM

18. Let us never forget them

No matter how hard those in power try to erase their memories and struggles from our history.

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Response to loudsue (Reply #16)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 12:00 PM

31. Don't want to hijack a great thread about a great man, but I wanted to post a brief

 

appreciation of your sentiment and mention William Lewis Moore, never to have achieved Robeson's deserved international stature and repute, but a 'courageous person' nonetheless:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Lewis_Moore

I tear up every time i think about Moore. Maybe someone can explain why it's almost always the Commies and the mentally ill who point us the way forward.

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Response to HardTimes99 (Reply #31)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 12:54 PM

35. Wow! Thanks! I didn't know about William Lewis Moore.

That was truly inspiring!

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Response to HardTimes99 (Reply #31)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 04:22 PM

36. Thanks so much for sharing his story.

That was very moving and I'm glad you brought Moore's story to our attention. I hope you will share more stories of this type with us, should you feel so inspired. I would like to see such threads become a regular part of GD.

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Response to theHandpuppet (Original post)

Tue Aug 20, 2013, 10:35 AM

40. Just read a recent biography of his wife Essie.

Robeson tried to buy a house in my home town in Connecticut in the 50s, but the neighbors got together and bought it instead. I always thought it odd because the neighborhood was what was known as a leftist enclave. Maybe he was too much of a hot potato at the time, when he and Arthur Miller were targeted by the HUAC.

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Response to theHandpuppet (Original post)

Tue Aug 20, 2013, 10:46 AM

42. I have tomato seeds named after him.

Thanks so much for adding a wonderful story to the name, it's nice to know who Paul Robeson was. I'll think of him when I grow them.

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