Paul Robeson Testifies 1948

Paul Robeson’s rendition of “Ol’ Man River” made him famous, but speaking out against racial injustice, together with his friendship with the Soviet Union, made him the target of anticommunist militants in Congress. At a Senate hearing in 1948, he testified against the proposed Mundt-Nixon Communist Registration Bill.

The bill died in the Senate, but two years later, Congress overrode a Presidential veto, and its reincarnation, the Internal Security Act, became law. Under it, Robeson’s passport was revoked. At a House Un-American Activities Committee interrogation in 1956, Robeson said, “Whether I am or not a communist is irrelevant. The question is whether American citizens, regardless of their political beliefs or sympathies, may enjoy their constitutional rights.”