Who were the Broadcast 41?

Why did images of white, nuclear families dominate television in the 1950s? Why has it taken nearly 70 years for images of a diverse America—featuring people of color, immigrants, women as independent social beings—to appear on prime time television?  Challenging the longstanding belief that what appeared on television screens in the 1950s and after resulted from some social consensus, The Broadcast 41 addresses these and other questions by telling two intersecting stories.

Vera Caspary's Laura

Turns out that film noir classic Laura, written by blacklisted screenwriter and novelist Vera Caspary, has a perfect 100 on Rotten Tomatoes. In a recent article, Kelcie Mattson (who coincidentally graduated from Stephens College, where blacklisted actor Jean Muir once taught acting) describes the film as depicting "the ways realistic women move within stifling conditions, and how men react when women breach patriarchal expectations." As such, she adds, "Laura stands tall as a minor miracle."

Judy Holliday and the Blacklisters

Judy Holliday was brilliant. She was a smart and funny, a member of a Village improv group called the Revuers. She was committed to a wide range of political causes, including serving on the radical Voice of Freedom Committee along with Dorothy Parker and Paul Robeson, and supporting the Civil Rights Congress.

The Radical Hannah Weinstein

Hannah Weinstein was a blacklisted writer who left the US in 1950 with her three young daughters and founded Sapphire Films in England, a company that went on to inaugurate the costume drama craze of the fifties before returning to the US in the 1960s and, with Ossie Davis, James Earl Jones, and Rita Moreno, founding Third World Cinema Corporation. Her daughter Paula became a successful movie producer and studio executive in the US.

Shirley Graham Du Bois and Black Women in Classical Music

Just sharing a great article for Women's HIstory Month about the invisible history of Black women's contributions to classical music, including Shirley Graham Du Bois, whose Tom Tom was the first opera produced by a Black woman when it premiered in 1932.

Langston Hughes, the Chicago Defender, and Ghosts

I just stumbled across this article, which combines three wonderful items: Langston Hughes, the Chicago Defender, and ghosts. Hughes was a poet and writer who was blacklisted in the 1950s and the subject of much government and anti-communist organization concern because of his powerful voice and the respect he commanded. The Chicago Defender was one of the most important African American newspapers.

Wartime Propaganda

In a recent essay, John Pilger recalls the inspiring opposition of journalists, intellectuals and writers to rising waves of fascism, authoritarianism, repression, and censorship in the US and internationally during the 1930s. Today, in contrast, he writes, what we have are "silences filled with a consensus of propaganda that contaminates almost everything we read, see and hear." 

Lillian Hellman, censored in Florida, knew a thing or two about blacklists

Author Lillian Hellman's plays have been pulled from the shelves of Orange County Public School libraries in Orlando, Florida, victims of House Bill 1069--a bill restricting everything from pronoun use to sex education and other issues deemed offensive by Florida conservatives.