1952 May 21

Playwright Lillian Hellman Rebukes HUAC


The noted playwright Lillian Hellman on this day appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and delivered a now famous rebuke to the committee and its anti-Communist witch hunt. In a letter to Committee Chairperson Rep. John Wood, which she had release to the public two days earlier, she declared:

I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions . . . .” 

Hellman was the author of the highly regarded plays The Children’s Hour (see December 18, 1935), The Little Foxes and Watch on the Rhine. She was called before HUAC because of her left-wing political views and also because of her relationship with novelist Dashiell Hammett, who also had difficulties with the law because of his political beliefs and associations (see July 9, 1951).

Read Hellman’s full letter: http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/6454/

Read Hellman’s account of the incident: Lillian Hellman, Scoundrel Time (1976)

Watch an interview with Lillian Hellman and Virginia Durr, both famous Alabama natives and activists: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYlo6FKHn3Q

Learn more about Hellman: William Wright, Lillian Hellman: The Image, The Woman (1986)

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