Are You Now, Or Have You Ever Been?

On 12 June, in 1956, Entertainer and Activist Paul Robeson appeared before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Ostensibly, he was called to discuss issues surrounding a lawsuit he brought concerning the revocation of his passport. The Committee asked him numerous questions about his political affiliations and trips to the Soviet Union. Mr. Robeson became fed up and stated the reason he thought he had been called before the Committee:

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. . .

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.