7 comments on “Paul Robeson’s 1956 testimony before the US House Un-American Activities Committee

  1. IAN CAMERON on said:

    Am very surprised that so far there are no comments. I remember the occasion and my then DAILY WORKER now deceased then ageing politically left father taking an enormous interest in the events as they were revealed. Anyway nice that this is posted up. My Scottish born then UPTON SINCLAIR reading father had visited the USA and had himself directly experienced how reactionary it was. Thanks for stirring the memory.

  2. I’ve combed the net on this one. It’s clear to me that it runs exactly as the transcript. I’m curious as to whether this is the recording of the actual hearing or is it a dramatisation? I know that Eric Bentley did a theatrical version . Is this it?

  3. Saul on said:

    Michael Rosen,

    I might be wrong (I often am!), but I think the recording might have it’s origins in James Earl Jones’s one man show on Paul Robeson.

  4. Halshall on said:

    Mike Rosen.

    Mike
    I did suspect that the near perfect sound quality was not just digitally re-mastered, but perhaps a re-enactment. The voice and manner of Robeson fits a very fine impersonation by James Earl Jones.
    Here Robeson is played correctly as a man who is sick of being on the receiving end of the cold war ‘blacklist’ of the US state for 10 years, his livelihood and reputation destroyed, and fundamentally his political platform as perhaps the most influential left-wing voice of the time (1947) removed from history.* [ eg: in a BBC documentary on the 20th anniversary of his death, even the pupils at the predominantly black Paul Robeson High School didn’t know who he was]
    The US ruling class was so afraid of him from 1947 onwards that they prevented any re-pressings of his discs and any new recordings, any radio broadcasts by or in favour of him; no TV or film of him (except in news cover), no theatre venues, and as the school example above no mention of him in pupil education. Finally most notoriously they took away his passport in 1950 on the outbreak of the Korean war, (which he had the temerity to speak out against (presumably on a news broadcast)] He was by 1955 a very sick man both mentally and physically, from which he never fully recovered; another ample reason for his justified but controlled rebuttal of HUAC.
    After a vigorous and prolonged international campaign his passport was returned by order of the US supreme court on appeal, along with that of several other less well known persons.
    In all the ‘blacklist’ was estimated to have effected at least 2000 on the US ‘left’, (not necessarily just CP members or fellow travellers) , and among whom Paul was the most prominent.
    The FBI followed him openly everywhere, tapped his phone and intercepted his mail, using this as psychological warfare.
    In the end after years it all took it’s toll, and after a collapse in his hotel room in Moscow in 1961with slashed wrists, he spent the next 16 years as either in-patient treatment or reclusion, until his death a poor man in Harlem in 1976.

    I hope the anticipated film biopic by Steve McQueen does ample justice to his memory.

  5. John on said:

    Halshall: I did suspect that the near perfect sound quality was not just digitally re-mastered, but perhaps a re-enactment. The voice and manner of Robeson fits a very fine impersonation by James Earl Jones.

    It was me who posted this recording, and after listening to it again I agree that it is more likely the recording of James Earl Jones in a dramatised re-enactment of the event rather than pf Paul Robeson’s actual testimony.

    I just read the written transcript of that testimony, and while the recording is accurate it has been edited for effect.

    That said, it in no way detracts from Robeson’s standing as a man of fierce principal and courage throughout this period of American history. At least not in my opinion.