1950 August 4

Paul Robeson’s Passport Suspended; Trip Blocked


The State Department took emergency action on this day to suspend the passport of the noted African-American singer and civil rights activist Paul Robeson. Apparently uncertain about where he would leave the U.S., the agency sent an emergency bulletin to all possible exit points. Robeson had emerged as a left-wing critic of American foreign policy during the Cold War, including the Korean War, which had broken out in June 1950.

For his views, Robeson was called before the House-Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) on June 12, 1956. On May 26, 1957, unable to leave the country because he did not have a passport, he gave a concert by telephone to an audience in London. The Cold War effectively ended Robeson’s successful career as a singer. He was blacklisted in the U.S., and the restrictions on his travel denied him performance opportunities in other countries.

Read: Martin Duberman, Paul Robeson (1989)

Watch Robeson sing for workers at the Sydney, Australia, Opera House: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eg7bPgrosAE

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)

Watch Robeson speak on colonialism, African-American rights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puOIdh944vk

Find a Day

Abortion Rights ACLU african-americans Alice Paul anti-communism Anti-Communist Hysteria Birth Control Brown v. Board of Education Censorship CIA Civil Rights Civil Rights Act of 1964 Cold War Espionage Act FBI First Amendment Fourteenth Amendment freedom of speech Free Speech Gay Rights Hate Speech homosexuality Hoover, J. Edgar HUAC Japanese American Internment King, Dr. Martin Luther Ku Klux Klan Labor Unions Lesbian and Gay Rights Loyalty Oaths McCarthy, Sen. Joe New York Times Obscenity Police Misconduct Same-Sex Marriage Separation of Church and State Sex Discrimination Smith Act Spying Spying on Americans Vietnam War Voting Rights Voting Rights Act of 1965 War on Terror Watergate White House Women's Rights Women's Suffrage World War I World War II Relocation Camps


Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear your comments, criticisms and suggestions!