1963 September 14

Pete Seeger Refuses to Sign Loyalty Oath, Is Barred from “Hootenanny” TV Show


Folk singer Pete Seeger had been blacklisted in the 1950s because of his political views, and his problems continued into the early 1960s. As a result, the popular 1960s ABC television show, Hootenanny, refused to allow him to perform. When word of the problem first leaked out earlier in the year, folk singer Joan Baez, on March 20, 1963, refused to appear on the show in solidarity with Seeger. Embarrassed, ABC tried to resolve the controversy by allowing Seeger to appear if he would sign a loyalty oath. On this day, he refused to sign the oath.

Seeger had been called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee on August 18, 1955, but he refused to discuss his own political beliefs or name the names of other alleged Communists. For this courageous stand (it was not established at the time that the First Amendment protected a right to refuse to cooperate with Congressional committees investigating political beliefs), he was cited for contempt of Congress. He was convicted, but the conviction was overturned on appeal. Seeger finally appeared on national television on February 25, 1968, when he sang Waist Deep in the Big Muddy, an anti-Vietnam War protest song that he wrote, on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Pete Seeger died on January 27, 2014, at age 94.

Hear Pete Seeger singing If I Had a Hammer in 1956: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rl-yszPdRTk

Learn more about the folk music revival: Ronald Cohen, Rainbow Quest: The Folk Music Revival and American Society, 1940–1970 (2002)

And more about Cold War blacklisting: David Everitt, A Shadow of Red: Communism and the Blacklist in Radio and Television (2007)

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

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