Public personalities, who were alleged to be associated with anything or anyone suspected to be sympathetic to communism, were likely to be blacklisted and banned from their performing jobs. The “Hollywood 10” was a group of writers and artists in the entertainment industry, who were supposed to be communists, who were using movies to create pro-Russian propaganda. “The Ten” were: Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner, Jr., John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Sam Ornitz, Robert Adrian Scott, and Dalton Trumbo.
They were called before HUAC where they claimed their Fifth Amendment constitutional right against self-incrimination and refused to testify. As a result, in 1950 they were held in contempt by HUAC, and given jail sentences. Other blacklisted performers included Paul Robeson, Pete Seeger, Tom Glazer, Oscar Brand, Leon Bibb, Lee Hays, Tony Kraber, Langston Hughes, Charlie Chaplin, Harry Belafonte and Orson Wells. (Cohen, pp. 83-84.) No more than 10 percent of those blacklisted were able to return to their careers. (Ellen Schrecker, “Blacklists and Other Economic Sanctions”)
Illustrative of the blacklist phenomenon was the situation of Jean Muir, a Hollywood screen star, who was chosen to play the part of Mrs. Aldrich, in the popular television show “The Aldrich Family.” Ms. Muir was one of the suspected communist sympathizers listed in Red Channels and Counterattack. The Americanism Committee of the Catholic War Veterans and the American Jewish League against Communism got wind of the Red Channel and Counterattack accusations against Ms. Muir and stirred up the press. General Foods, the sponsor of “The Aldrich Family,” issued a press release emphasizing that using “controversial personalities” was detrimental to the “acceptance of its products”, and, thus, Ms. Muir was removed from the show. (Brand, pp. 129-133.) According to Brand, “All were, by virtue of the listing [in Red Channels and Counterattack] too controversial for employment in mass communication.” (Id.)
On November 13, 1953, during the height of the McCarthy era, Robin Hood and his band of Merry Outlaws were dragged into the red scare. One Mrs. Thomas J. White of the Indiana Textbook Commission called for a ban of the Robin Hood legend in all school books. Mrs. White believed that Robin Hood promoted communism by stealing from the rich to give to the poor. She stated that “there is a Communist directive in education now to stress the story of Robin Hood. They want to stress it because he robbed the rich and gave it to the poor. That’s the Communist line. It’s just a smearing of law and order and anything that disrupts law and order is their meat.” (Id.)
In response to Mrs. White’s attempts at censorship, as well as the larger McCarthy witch hunt it was part of, five students from Indiana University at Bloomington (IU) started the Green Feather Movement. The IU students—Bernard Bray, Mary Dawson, Edwin Napier, Blas Davila, and Jeanine Carter—went to a local poultry farm with six large burlap sacks, collected chicken feathers and took them to the basement of a nearby house where they dyed them green to represent the ones worn by Robin Hood’s character. On March 1, 1954, the students spread them throughout campus to protest censorship. Their activism was quite radical when viewed within the political climate of the time, when IU freshmen and sophomore men were still required to participate in ROTC and, according to a January 1954 Gallup poll, 50 percent of the country supported McCarthyism. The students were allegedly investigated by the FBI and disparaged in the local newspapers. In May 1954, IU President Herman B. Wells and the student senate denied the Green Feather Movement’s request for official recognition because they were deemed too political. The Green Feather Movement inspired solidarity actions on campuses throughout the country. Green Feather groups subsequently spread to the universities of Harvard, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Chicago, and Purdue. The Green Feather movement lasted through two semesters and came to an end after Sen. McCarthy was censured by the Senate in December 1954. (http://zinnedproject.org/materials/the-green-feather-movement/; Donaldson, p. 125.) The movement inspired the song “Greenfeather,” by Connie Bromberg, (Singout magazine, v. 5 #1, p. 33.) but I cannot find the lyrics or the audio.
The Weavers were a popular folk group that sold over four million records between 1949 and 1951. The Weavers were Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, Fred Hellerman and Ronnie Gilbert. (Weissman, p. 66) Their most popular songs included “Tenza, Tenza”, “If I had a Hammer (The Hammer Song)” (re-popularized by Peter Paul & Mary in the 1960s), “Good Night Irene” which was “a runaway hit” (Cohen, p. 68) written by Lead Belly, “Kisses Sweeter than Wine”, “So Long It’s Been Good to Know Ya” by Woody Guthrie; and, “Midnight Special,” another song by Lead Belly.
Although the Weavers as a musical group were apolitical, Pete Seeger and other members of the group were accused by Red Channels of being communist party members or sympathizers. The John Birch Society called Seeger “Khrushchev’s songbird.” (Dunaway, How Can I Keep from Singing: The Ballad of Pete Seeger, p. xviii.) Harvey Matusow, one of the persons who accused the Weavers of being members of the Communist Party, later admitted in his book, False Witness, that he made up the accusations because he wanted publicity. (Epstein, p. 117.)
Seeger was later subpoenaed to testify before HUAC. He refused to testify, claiming his First and Fifth Amendment freedoms. On July 26, 1956, the House of Representatives voted 373 to 9 to cite Seeger and seven others (including famous playwright Arthur Miller author of The Death of a Salesman and The Crucible and the husband of Marilyn Monroe) for contempt, for their failure to cooperate with the HUAC. Seeger faced jail time, but his conviction was overturned on appeal. (Denselow, pp. 13-16.) Seeger was blacklisted as a result of his actions, and, the Weavers lost their record contract. Their songs would not be played on the radio. As noted by Will Kaufman in Woody Guthrie – American Radical, p. 173, “… [B]oth Guthrie and the Weavers lost their Decca contracts as the New York folk scene imploded and folksingers began dropping like sledgehammered cattle before the anticommunist onslaught.”
Because they could no longer get bookings, the Weavers disbanded in December 1952. Seeger went on to do some performing individually. Although colleges and universities would not sponsor his performances due to the blacklist, other organizations tangentially related to the schools, e.g. YMCAs, fraternities, etc., would skirt the blacklist and sponsor shows. (See “Pete Seeger’s 1958 Visit to UIUC Amidst the Red Scare,” http://publici.ucimc.org/?p=50371.) Seeger was finally permitted to appear on television in the late-1960s on the “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.”