1952 February 6

Members of Weavers, Folksinging Group, Named as Communists Before HUAC

 

Harvery Matusow, a former Communist Party member and now an FBI informant, on this day named members of the popular folk singing group The Weavers as Communists. Matusow named Pete Seeger, Ronnie Gilbert, and Fred Hellerman. The Weavers were in the middle of a concert tou,r and by mutual agreement with the manager, their scheduled week-long engagement with the Yankee Inn in Akron, Ohio, was cancelled.

Being named as Communists destroyed the Weavers commercial career. They had been one of the most popular groups in America since 1950, with several number one hits, including “Goodnight Irene” (originally a folk song by Leadbelly).

The Weavers soon disbanded, but Pete Seeger developed a very successful career performing on college campuses, which were free of anti-Communist pressures. He was particularly responsible for teaching a generations Woody Guthrie’s song “This Land is Your Land.” With Guy Carawan and others, he also revised “We Will Overcome,” based on an old African-American gospel song that had become a labor union organizing song, into “We Shall Overcome.” Carawan taught it to the leaders of the sit-in movement in 1960, and it immediately became the anthem of the civil rights movement.

Matusow had a bizarre career. After being a Communist Party member and FBI informant, he recanted and denied his earlier accusations about who was a Communist. The Justice Department convicted him of perjury and he was sentenced to prison. Upon leaving prison, he became a member of the 1960s counterculture and led a rock group.

Read the biography of Pete Seeger: David King Dunaway, How Can I Keep from Singing (1981)

Listen to Seeger Sing If I Had a Hammer (1963)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HE4H0k8TDgw

Learn more about Pete Seeger: http://peteseeger.net/wp/

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