Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight Hiram M. Chittenden Patsy Collins Gordon Hirabayashi Home William Boeing
Search Encyclopedia
Facebook
Advanced Search
Featured Eassy Sponsor of the Week Book Store Donate Now
Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search
6852 HistoryLink.org essays now available      
Donate Subscribe

Shortcuts

Libraries
Cyberpedias Cyberpedias
Timeline Essays Timeline Essays
People's Histories People's Histories

Selected Collections
Cities & Towns Cities & Towns
County Thumbnails Counties
Biographies Biographies
Interactive Cybertours Interactive Cybertours
Slide Shows Slideshows
Public Ports Public Ports
Audio & Video Audio & Video

Research Shortcuts

Map Searches
Alphabetical Search
Timeline Date Search
Topic Search

Features

Book of the Fortnight
Audio/Video Enhanced
History Bookshelf
Klondike Gold Rush Database
Duvall Newspaper Index
Wellington Scrapbook

More History

Washington FAQs
Washington Milestones
Honor Rolls
Columbia Basin
Everett
Olympia
Seattle
Spokane
Tacoma
Walla Walla
Roads & Rails

Timeline Library

< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Paul Robeson overcomes red-baiters to appear in Seattle Civic Auditorium on May 20, 1952.

HistoryLink.org Essay 1144 : Printer-Friendly Format

On May 20, 1952, famed African American social activist, actor, and singer Paul Robeson (1898-1976) overcomes opposition from anti-communists, a press blackout, and an initial City Council ban on his appearance to lecture and perform in Seattle's Civic Auditorium (now the Opera House at Seattle Center).

This was not Robeson's first visit to Seattle or his first clash with its conservative and anti-communist elements. He passed through the city in January 1952 on his way to a Canadian labor rally in Vancouver, B.C., but U.S. officials barred him from crossing the border. Robeson drove back to Seattle and delivered his remarks by telephone.

Robeson returned in May of that year and addressed a cross-border audience (variously estimated at 25,000 to 30,000 to as high as 45,000 people) at the Blaine Peace Arch. Shortly after this, the Seattle City Council abruptly cancelled his scheduled May 20 lecture/performance in the Civic Auditorium on the absurd grounds he would "tend to cause antagonism to the Negro race." In truth, Robeson's outspoken advocacy of civil rights, socialism, and the Soviet Union had already made him a marked man amid the mounting McCarthyist hysteria of the time.

Robeson's appearance was part of a Northwest tour organized by Communist editor Terry Pettus, KIRO radio personality Jack Kinzell (who was fired for his efforts), and Seattle civil rights leaders Vincent Davis, Lester Catlett, and James McDaniels. They sued to lift the ban. On May 8, a Superior Court judge ruled in Robeson's favor, but this left fewer than two weeks for promotion, and The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer refused to advertise the concert/lecture. As a result, Robeson appeared before a half-empty hall, and the event barely broke even. He never returned to Seattle.

Forty-six years after this humiliating encounter, Seattle City Council Member Peter Steinbrueck submitted a resolution honoring the great activist/actor's April 9th birthday as "Paul Robeson Day." It passed without dissent.

Sources:
Martin Duberman, Paul Robeson: A Biography (New York: The New Press, 1989), 400-401, 411; The Seattle Times,, May 6, 7, and 8, 1952, and August 15, 1954; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May, 6, 7, and 8, 1952.
Note: This essay was revised slightly on May 17, 2012.


Travel through time (chronological order):
< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Related Topics: Government & Politics | Black Americans | Media | Scandals | Celebrities | Music & Musicians |

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both HistoryLink.org and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License


Major Support for HistoryLink.org Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You




Paul Robeson (1898-1976)
Courtesy King County


 
Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search

HistoryLink.org is the first online encyclopedia of local and state history created expressly for the Internet. (SM)
HistoryLink.org is a free public and educational resource produced by History Ink, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt corporation.
Contact us by phone at 206.447.8140, by mail at Historylink, 1411 4th Ave. Suite 803, Seattle WA 98101 or email admin@historylink.org