1963 January 31

Folk Singer Josh White Performs for JFK at “Dinner with the President” on CBS TV


African-American folk singer Josh White performed at a “Dinner with the President” gala event in honor of President John F. Kennedy, which was broadcast over CBS television. White had previously performed at the White House for President Franklin D. Roosevelt in February 1941, in what was characterized as a “command performance,” the first African-American entertainer to do so.

Because of his political views, White had been called to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) on September 1, 1950, where he used the opportunity to read the lyrics of Billie Holiday’s anti-lynching song, Strange Fruit, into the Congressional Record. (For Billie Holiday’s recording of the now-classic version of Strange Fruit, go to April 20, 1939,)

Listen to Josh White sing House of the Rising Sun: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8Ueo7r2nbA

Read: Elijah Wald, Josh White: Society Blues (2000)

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