1958 June 19

Joe Papp, Future Theater Great, Takes Fifth Before HUAC; Is Fired by CBS


Joe Papp, later famous as an innovator in American theater, was a stage manager for CBS television in the 1950s. When he took the Fifth Amendment before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), CBS on this day fired him. Supported by his union, Papp appealed the firing and an arbitrator ordered him reinstated, on November 12, 1958.

Papp later became one of the most important figures in American theater, and was the founder of the Public Theater and Shakespeare in the Park, both in New York City.

Because so many people refused to testify before HUAC and other investigating bodies regarding their political beliefs and associations, the term “Fifth Amendment Communists” arose as a derogatory label. In 1954 a national controversy arose over the issue, and there were calls to amend the Fifth Amendment. The Dean of Harvard Law School spoke out in defense of the Fifth Amendment on February 5, 1954. But on August 20, 1954, President Eisenhower signed a new law empowering congressional investigators to compel testimony from reluctant witnesses in return for a grant of immunity from prosecution.

Read: Helen Epstein, Joe Papp: An American Life (1994)

Honor Joe Papp by spending an evening Joe’s Pub at the NYC Public Theater: http://www.joespub.com/

Learn more about Joe Papp:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Cn2L6CTcvI

Find a Day

Abortion Rights ACLU african-americans Alice Paul anti-communism Anti-Communist Hysteria Birth Control Brown v. Board of Education Censorship CIA Civil Rights Civil Rights Act of 1964 Cold War Espionage Act FBI First Amendment Fourteenth Amendment freedom of speech Free Speech Gay Rights Hate Speech homosexuality Hoover, J. Edgar HUAC Japanese American Internment King, Dr. Martin Luther Ku Klux Klan Labor Unions Lesbian and Gay Rights Loyalty Oaths McCarthy, Sen. Joe New York Times Obscenity Police Misconduct Same-Sex Marriage Separation of Church and State Sex Discrimination Smith Act Spying Spying on Americans Vietnam War Voting Rights Voting Rights Act of 1965 War on Terror Watergate White House Women's Rights Women's Suffrage World War I World War II Relocation Camps


Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear your comments, criticisms and suggestions!