1962 January 2

Weavers Refuse to Sign Loyalty Oath; Are Banned by NBC

 

The folk singing group, The Weavers, which had been attacked in the 1950s for the leftist political views of its members, was barred from appearing on the late-night Jack Paar Show (predecessor to The Tonight Show) for refusing to sign a loyalty oath. Other musicians with left-wing histories also had problems appearing on network television in the 1950s and 1960s because of their political views: Pete Seeger (September 14, 1963); Joan Baez (March 20, 1963).

The insidious aspect of all the loyalty oaths of the Cold War era was that they had nothing to do with any specific criminal or unprofessional conduct on the part of individuals required to sign them.

Loyalty oaths were a special obsession during the anti-Communist frenzy of the Cold War. Unlike traditional oaths of office, which involve an oath to uphold the Constitution and the country’s laws, Cold War loyalty oaths required people to swear that they were not members of the Communist Party and/or other radical parties or movements. Thus, they were oaths regarding membership and beliefs without reference to any actual or planned illegal action. The mania for loyalty oaths during the Cold War included the University of California oath (April 21, 1950); the Taft-Hartley Act, which required a loyalty oath for labor leaders (June 23, 1947); the Gwinn Amendment, which required a loyalty oath for federally funded public housing residents (July 5, 1952); and, in the 1960s, a loyalty oath for Medicare recipients, which was never enforced (February 13, 1967).

Watch a 2008 Weavers reunion concert: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZ06MuB8_04

Learn more about Pete Seeger and The Weavers: David King Dunaway, How Can I Keep From Singing: Pete Seeger (1981)

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

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