We have been through trying times these past several years. The urge to look back on what is perceived as a ahppier, simpler time is naturally very strong. We tend to canonize the fifties as stable and reassuring, a Golden Age. But was it really? …
…The early fifties were the hey-day of the House Un-American Activities Committee and its ongoing witch hunt for Communists in the government and the arts. “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” asked the committee at its hearings of hundreds of government employees, writers, artists, actors, and movie directors, including everyone from Alger Hiss to Humphrey Bogart, and many of those who refused to answer on constitutional grounds were cited for contempt of Congress and sent off to federal prison for a couple of years. And others who refused to co-operate with the committee, though perhaps not sent to jail, found themselves in disgrace and washed up in their careers. The mere fact of having been called before the committee was deemed by many to be sufficient evidence to prove that a man was a Communist.
Most producers secretly kept copies in their desks of Red Channels, a booklet published in 1950 by a trio of former F.B.I agents that listed 151 leading American actors, actresses, writers, musicians, directors, and others in show business who were allegedly Communists. And throughout the fifties, almost no one who was listed in Red Channels, a roster that read somewhat like a roll of honor of the American entertainment industry could find any sort of work in television, radio, or the movies.
And all because, according to Red Channels, they’d been involved in such “pro-Communist activities” as backing Henry Wallace for President in 1948, speaking out against Franco during the Spanish Civil War, and contributing money to campaigns against the poll tax in the South.In a saner time, saner men might have chucked Red Channels directly into a wastebasket, where it unquestionably belonged, but politically, the fifties were far from being a sane time.
(see link at end)… By 1950, Joseph McCarthy and the HUAC had already been at work for several years, and figures like singer Paul Robeson and the so-called Hollywood Ten had already been blacklisted, but Red Channels sought to go further, exposing what it called a widespread Communist effort to achieve “domination of American broadcasting and telecasting, preparatory to the day when…[the] Party will assume control of this nation as the result of a final upheaval and civil war.” Some even believe that the men responsible for Red Channels—including several former members of the FBI—were given illegal access to the confidential files of HUAC in preparing their report, which exposed 151 names in the entertainment industry to public scrutiny and the threat of blacklisting.
Joining famous names like Orson Welles, Lillian Hellman, Arthur Miller and Dorothy Parker on the Red Channels list were the aforementioned Bernstein, Copland, Horne, Seeger and Shaw and numerous other musical figures, including the legendary harmonica player Larry Adler, the folksinger Burl Ives, former Library of Congress folklorist Alan Lomax and The New York Times music critic Olin Downes. The evidence of Communist leanings offered in Red Channels included Lena Horne’s appearance on the letterhead of a South African famine relief program, Aaron Copland’s appearance on a panel at a 1949 Scientific and Cultural Conference for World Peace and Leonard Bernstein’s affiliation with the Committee to Re-Elect Benjamin J. Davis, a black, socialist New York City councilman.
In the end, Red Channels caused some of those named to be blacklisted—Pete Seeger, most famously—to fight publicly to prove their “loyalty” to the United States and still others to repudiate their political pasts and provide the HUAC with names of other suspected prominent leftists.Read More:http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/bernstein-copland-seeger-and-others-are-named-as-communists