Archive of 14 original large-format press photographs of the 1960 protest against the House on Un-American Activities Committee

[House on Un-American Activities Committee] [Free Speech Movement]

N.p. N.p., Circa 1960. Archive of 14 vintage large-format press photographs of the infamous protest against the House on Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) at San Francisco City Hall on May 13, 1960. Reference Library stamps on the versos, along with brief mimeo snipes, and several with newspaper clippings adhered to the versos.

By 1960 HUAC had been widely denounced by everyone from figures of the American counterculture to former President Harry Truman, but the committee nevertheless continued to hold hearings around the country to investigate alleged local subversive activities. Arriving in San Francisco for the first of three days of hearings (from May 12-14), the committee were met by a group of protesters organized by civil liberties activist Frank Wilkenson. The protesters found themselves barred from entering City Hall, however, as HUAC had already filled the hearing chamber with supporters. Demonstrators began to chant outside the building, demanding entrance.

The publicity generated by the first day's demonstration brought even larger numbers the following day, with an estimated gathering of 3500 protesters, including many Berkeley students. Without warning, San Francisco police turned fire hoses on the protesters, and began to drag them down the stairs. The resultant melee marked the first significant public confrontation between HUAC and its detractors, and reflected a major shift in national opinion about the purpose of the committee.

The photographs on offer document the protest itself as well as the aftermath, with images of protesters marching with signs and surrounding the inside and outside of City Hall. Many vivid photographs show policemen in the heat of the conflict, spraying protesters with fire hoses and dragging individuals by the limbs and by clothing down the building steps. Several images show protesters under arrest afterwards, as well as one particularly striking image of a pile of abandoned protest signs on the ground in front of City Hall.

An important collection of images from a key turning point not only in the history of HUAC, but also in the dialogue around free speech in the United States, and, more broadly, in the forms of protest and organization that would shape New Left social and political movements over the course of the following decades.

11 x 14 inches. Very Good plus, lightly toned at the margins, and some with touch-ups and annotations in manuscript pencil on the rectos.

[Book #158629]