1955 October 15

“Right to Travel” Art Exhibit Opens: Paintings by Rockwell Kent


The noted artist Rockwell Kent opened an exhibit of his work on this day to raise funds for his legal challenge of the government’s denying him a passport (which had occurred on August 7, 1950), because of his leftist political views. He eventually won his passport in the Supreme Court case of Kent v. Dulles, decided on June 16, 1958.

In that case, Justice William O. Douglas for the Court wrote, “The right to travel is a part of the ‘liberty’ of which the citizen cannot be deprived without due process of law under the Fifth Amendment.”

Kent’s case was one of several involving prominent Americans who were denied passports during the Cold War because of their political views. Denying people the right to travel overseas had the effect of limiting their artistic, scientific, or journalistic careers. See for example, the cases of Paul Robeson (August 4, 1950), Linus Pauling (May 11, 1952), and William Worthy (December 29, 1957).

Learn more about Rockwell Kent, artist and activist: David Traxel, An American Saga: The Life and Times of Rockwell Kent (1980)

Watch a documentary on Rockwell Kent: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNLMHJUpzUI

See Kent’s illustrations for Herman Melville’s Moby Dick: Herman Melville, Moby Dick: Or, The Whale, Modern Library Edition (2000)

Learn more about the U.S. passport office in the Cold War and after: Mrs. Shipley’s Ghost: The Right to Travel and Terrorist Watchlists (2013)

Read Kent’s autobiography: Rockwell Kent, It’s Me, O Lord (1955)

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