AMERICA'S "FAILURE TO SET ITS HOUSE IN ORDER, TO RANSOM ITS OWN PROMISE, BROUGHT OUT IN HIM… UNCOMPROMISING ANGER, A DOGGED REFUSAL TO BOW": PAUL ROBESON'S FEBRUARY 27, 1956 MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE BRIEF AND BRIEF AMICI CURIAE IN THE U.S. COURT OF APPEALS
(ROBESON, Paul). United States Court of Appeals. District of Columbia. Paul Robeson, Plaintiff-Appellant, against John Foster Dulles, Defendant-Appellee. Motion for Leave to File Brief and Brief Amici Curiae. New York: Hecla Press, 1956. Octavo, original cream printed self-wrappers, staple bound as issued; pp. (i)-ii, (1), 2-25 (1). $2500.
First official edition of Robeson's 1956 amicus curiae brief for the long-denied restoration of his passport, a seminal document in the history of constitutionally protect freedom of speech and the right to travel, submitted by W.E.B. Du Bois and others, declaring "to silence Paul Robeson is to immobilize an eloquent, devoted, determined and respected fighter for the full emancipation of the Negro people," with accompanying facsimile of letter signed by Eslanda Good Robeson, one-page document and laid-in envelope with typed address.
Fearless in his lifelong struggle for Black rights, "Robeson's achievements as a stage actor, movie star and singer are individually outstanding but collectively astounding'" (ANB). In 1946 Robeson had challenged President Truman for refusing "to sponsor legislation against lynching by telling him that in the absence of federal protection Blacks would exercise their right of armed self-defense" (Buhle, Encyclopedia of the American Left, 655). Subsequently the State Department "issued a 'stop notice' at all ports to prevent Robeson from leaving the country" and he was ordered to surrender his passport. When he refused, it was revoked. The FBI, CIA and State Department targeted him as a communist, yet the passport decision did not require a non-communist affidavit, and did not charge him with membership in the Communist Party. A stated reasoning was that his "frequent criticism of the treatment of Blacks in the U.S. should not be aired in foreign countries." To the government, "it was a family affair" (Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights, 62). Robeson and his wife Eslanda Goode Robinson made repeated appeals for the reinstatement of his passport and were denied. In July 1955 Robeson and his attorneys, again hopeful, reapplied and were granted a meeting with the State Department, which still refused to alter its decision. With that, Robeson issued a public statement saying he was deemed a "'threat' (a security risk) because he told the truth" (Duberman, Paul Robeson, 434).
The following year Robeson's attorneys made this amicus curiae brief on behalf of W.E.B. Du Bois, Herbert Aptheker, Eslanda Goode Robeson and others. "To silence Paul Robeson,"it states, "is to immobilize an eloquent, devoted, determined and respected fighter for the full emancipation of the Negro people. And it is precisely for the purpose of gagging Mr. Robeson that the Secretary of State has withheld his passport… in violation of the first, fifth, eighth and ninth amendments… [and] the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth amendments." The brief links Robeson with Black leaders such as Frederick Douglass and William Wells Brown in the Black "struggle for full citizenship." That fight now continues, it notes, "in a titanic struggle with white supremacists." Referencing Brown v. Board of Education (1952), the brief asserts segregation persists in schools "supported in part by U.S. funds" and notes "U.S. Senators with impunity urge defiance of the Federal law." The government's refusal to reinstate Robeson's passport "casts the Federal government as an ally of those southern state governments which are desperately trying to turn back the pages of history, and which deny to the Negro people basic, elemental rights." Once again, however, his appeal for the passport's reinstatement was denied. In 1958 the Supreme Court, in Kent v. Dulles, found that "the right to travel is part of the ''liberty' of which the citizen cannot be deprived without due process of law." That same year Robeson's passport was finally restored to him. To his biographer, America's "failure to set its house in order, to ransom its own promise, brought out in him… uncompromising anger, a dogged refusal to bow… that a man so deeply loved all over the world could evoke in his own country such an outpouring of fear and anger may be the central tragedy—America's tragedy—of Paul Robeson's story" (Duberman, xiii).
In fine condition.