Erstwhile’s Beau Driver spotlights the folk singer, songwriter, and activist, Pete Seeger, in celebration of Labor Day and to commemorate the artist’s passing early this year.
On January 27th of this year, the influential singer, songwriter, and activist, Pete Seeger, passed away. A great champion of labor and civil rights, Seeger was often outspoken against war and capitalism. Many of Seeger’s songs gained popularity throughout the latter half of the twentieth century as many different artists–including Joan Baez, The Byrds, and Peter, Paul, and Mary–identified with the message of his music.
Throughout his life, Seeger supported labor, unionism, civil rights, and anti-militarism. Because of his connection to socialist and communist organizations in his younger years, Seeger was subpoenaed to testify before the House Un-American Activities Commission (HUAC) in 1955. Like the Hollywood Ten who testified before him (including CU alumnus Dalton Trumbo), Pete Seeger refused to “take the Fifth” and stated that the questions were in violation of his First Amendment Rights. He testified, “I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this.” For this, he was indicted and convicted for Contempt of Congress; however, the conviction and sentence were later repealed.
I encourage everyone to take a few moments today, on Labor Day, and listen to some of Mr. Seeger’s songs and think on the struggles for fair treatment in the workplace, as well as the struggles for equal rights that Americans participated in during the history of our country. I don’t think that you will be disappointed.