Blacklisted! Hollywood, The Cold War, and the First Amendment by Larry Dane Brimner. Calkins Creek, (9781620916032), 2018
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4.5
What did you like about the book? Blacklisted is a fascinating look at a shameful time in American history when the ideals of freedom of speech and civil liberties were thrown aside in favor of censorship. Nineteen men from the film industry (screenwriters, producers, actors and directors) were put on trial in front of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Un-American Activities, chaired by J. Parnell Thomas. The men were accused of being communists who made films that attempted to subvert American opinion. None of the men accused were allowed to read their defendant statements even though the previous week their accusers were allowed to do so. The first ten men interrogated, called the Hollywood Ten, refused to answer questions of the committee on the grounds that it was a violation of their First Amendment rights. In response, Congress cited them for contempt and they were blacklisted from working in Hollywood. Many served prison sentences and found it difficult to ever find work again, although some used pseudonyms. Very few members of Congress objected to the citations and public opinion turned against the Hollywood Ten in large measure, as well. Lives were ruined and the Blacklist continued to grow to hundreds of people.
Brimner presents information in chronological order and makes extensive use of primary source material like photographs, political cartoons and quotes. The author’s note at the end connects these historical events to modern times; our current polarized political climate faces some of these questions about security vs. Constitutional freedom even today. This is an excellent title for use in research projects and for students who are personally interested in the Cold War era of American history. Includes a bibliography, source notes and an index.
To whom would you recommend this book? Anyone interested in reading about threats to free speech will be interested in this book.
Anything you didn’t like about it? No, except that I wanted to know more! Many of the screenwriters who were accused of communism were very progressive thinkers (including anti-racist ideas) for their time. I would have loved to see examples of some of their work.
Who should buy this book? All middle and high school libraries
Where would you shelve it? nonfiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? history buffs should definitely prioritize this one!
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Laura Gardner, Dartmouth Middle School, Dartmouth, MA
Date reviewed: October 15, 2018