1953 May 5

Dancer Jerome Robbins Names Names Before HUAC

 

The noted dancer/choreographer/director Jerome Robbins on this day “named names” of people he had known as Communists to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). The tragedy of his testimony was that he provided names out of fear of being exposed as a gay man. In an unpublished journal he confided, “It was my homosexuality I was afraid would be exposed.” (Deborah Jowitt, below, at p. 231).

In the early 1950s, a homophobic panic known as the “Lavender Scare” swept the country, and the fear of damage to his career was very realistic. People who refused to name names before HUAC, meanwhile, — or were named by others — had their careers ruined because they were blacklisted. For more on the Lavender Scare, go to March 29, 1950, May 19, 1950, November 27, 1950 and March 25, 1952.

After his testimony, Robbins went on to become one of the most acclaimed dancers in the history of American dance. He did the choreography, for example, for both the stage and film versions of West Side Story.

Learn more: Deborah Jowitt, Jerome Robbins: His Life, His Theater, His Dance (2004)

Watch a documentary on Robbins: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfM6YjKVcNg

Read: David K. Johnson, The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government (2004)

See the documentary: The Lavender Scare (2012): http://www.thelavenderscare.com/

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