Robeson at HUAC
Radio Play excerpt, 1988. Post and edit, 2019 (11 mins)
Paul Robeson, an actor, singer, civil rights activist, and communist laid the groundwork for the civil rights movement in the US and a witch hunt was started, while 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. This excerpt it a dramatic reconstruction titled Are You Now, Or Have You Ever Been, by L A Theatre Works. Paul Robeson is voiced by James Earl Jones and Ed Asner plays the “honorable” Chairman Walter.
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 In 1950, his passport was revoked.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. In the following testimony to a HUAC hearing, 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’s passport was returned but he was hounded for the rest of his life by the US authorities for his beliefs.