Testimony of Paul Robeson before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, June 12, 1956

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  • Published on:  2/28/2019
  • 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 In 1950, his passport was revoked.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.

    Communist Paul Robeson vs The House Un-American Activities Committee
    [As interpreted by James Earl Jones]

    "Paul Robeson was an actor, singer, civil rights activist, and a communist. Robeson laid the groundwork for the civil rights movement in the US and the capitalist powers tried to destroy him. Here's why it's important for us to remember him."
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