Articles and Features

The Hollywood Ten

Week of November 23, 1997

Fifty years ago, on November 24, 1947, The Un-American Activities Committee found the "Hollywood Ten" in contempt because they refused to reveal whether they were communists or not. This is a part of history that was hardly covered in my history classes in school. The entire "McCarthy Era" was glazed over and barely acknowledged. I wonder if it was because of shame or if it was still too controversial to cover when I was a child. The most coverage this era received was in my literature class when we read The Crucible by Arthur Miller. He was a victim of a blacklist that started with a senator named Joseph McCarthy.

Joseph McCarthy, along with Richard M. Nixon and Chairman J. Parnell Thomas, was involved with The Un-American Activities Committee. Over the span of a few years, this committee systematically brought people to them on the charges that they were "un-American." There were a group of ten artists affiliated with Hollywood that were brought before this committee who refused to answer whether they were communists on the grounds that what senator McCarthy was doing was unconstitutional. Many famous actors and actresses, like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, went to Washington to support these industry leaders, only to find themselves threatened with blacklists.

The following quotes are meant to be read in groups of two. The first is a quote that supports this sort of witch-hunting, and the second is another quote rebuking it.

Introduction and quote compilation by Laura S. Moncur, Staff Writer.

"I have here in my hand a list of two hundred and five [people] that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department."
Joseph Raymond McCarthy, speech, Wheeling, West Virginia, Febuary 9, 1950
"In Germany they first came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me - and by that time no one was left to speak up."
Pastor Martin Niemoller, Dachau, 1944
"Rebellion is like witchcraft. That's what it is, it's like witchcraft."
Missouri State Rep. Jean Dixon, on labeling "offensive music". USA Today, March 20, 1990
"A little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical."
Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison, January 30, 1787
"It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."
Pat Robertson, The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 1993
"After ages of transmitted prejudice and silly teaching, only one person in twenty puts any real heart into the harrying of a witch. And yet apparently everybody hates witches and wants them killed. Some day a handful will rise up on the other side and make the most noise -- perhaps even a single daring man with a big voice and a determined front will do it -- and in a week all the sheep will wheel and follow him, and witch-hunting will come to a sudden end."
Mark Twain, "The Mysterious Stranger", 1922
For more information about The Hollywood Ten and the McCarthy Era, try these links:
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