1956 June 21

Playwright Arthur Miller Testifies Before HUAC; Refuses to Name Names


The noted playwright Arthur Miller testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) about his political affiliations on this day, but he refused to name names of other alleged Communists, citing the First Amendment. This was a courageous stand because there was no law or court decisoin affirming a First Amendment right not to answer questions before a legislative investigating committee.

Miller had won the Pulitzer Prize for his play, Death of a Salesman; and his play, The Crucible, which opened on January 22, 1953, drew a parallel between the infamous Salem Witch Trials (June 10, 1692) and the anti-Communist hysteria of the Cold War. Miller was convicted of contempt of Congress, on May 31, 1957, for refusing to name names, but his conviction was overturned on August 7, 1958.

TRIVIA: In a bizarre aspect of Miller’s HUAC appearance, Committee Chair Rep. Frances E. Walter (D–Pennsylvania) reportedly told Miller in advance that his problems with HUAC would “go away” if he would consent to having Walter’s photograph taken with Miller’s new wife, the famous actress Marilyn Monroe. Miller said no.

Read or see the classic plays: Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman (1949); The Crucible (1953)

Watch an interview with Arthur Miller: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxjhq4dr7QY

Read the classic book on “naming names”: Victor Navasky, Naming Names (1980)

Read Miller’s memoirs: Arthur Miller, Time Bends: A Life (1987)

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