Lena Horne + Paul Robeson (Blacklist Episode #12) / by Karina Longworth

Horne and Paul Robeson look over plans for a June 1946 rally at Madison Square Garden, hosted by the Council on African Affairs.

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Horne's last years at MGM overlapped with the first HUAC hearings. Horne, an outspoken proponent of equal rights, who from the beginning of her career had associated with leftists and “agitators,” got caught up in the anti-communist insanity. One of those agitators was Paul Robeson, a singer, actor and political firebrand who was a mentor and friend to Horne. But once the red panic began to heat up, that friendship became problematic for Lena, and like so many others, she was forced to choose between her career and her friendships.  

Lena Horne and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at a party Ms. Horne gave in Dr. King's honor in 1963.

Show notes:

Here is a list of published sources that the entire season draws from:

The Red and the Blacklist: An Intimate Memoir of a Hollywood Expatriate by Norma Barzman

Dalton Trumbo: Blacklisted Hollywood Radical by Larry Ceplair and Christopher Trumbo

Trumbo: A biography of the Oscar-winning screenwriter who broke the Hollywood blacklist by Bruce Cook

When Hollywood Was Right: How Movie Stars, Studio Moguls, and Big Business Remade American Politics by Donald T. Critchlow

Odd Man Out: A Memoir of the Hollywood Ten by Edward Dmytryk

City of Nets by Otto Friedrich

Hollywood Radical, Or How I Learned to Love the Blacklist by Bernard Gordon

I Said Yes to Everything by Lee Grant

Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War by J. Hoberman

Naming Names by Victor S. Navasky

West of Eden: An American Place by Jean Stein

The Inquisition in Hollywood: Politics in the Film Community, 1930-60 by Larry Ceplair

Sources specific to this episode:

The Hornes: An American Family, by Gail Lumet Buckley

The Undiscovered Paul Robeson: An Artist’s Journey, 1898 – 1939 by Paul Robeson Jr.

Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne by James Gavin

Lena by Lena Horne and Richard Schickel

“The Politics of Cafe Society” by David W. Stowe The Journal of American History Vol. 84, No. 4 (Mar., 1998)    

Lena Horne, interviewed by Gene De Alessi, April 12, 1966, Pacifica Radio Archives

Ed Sullivan, “Ed Sullivan’s Little Old New York,” The Pittsburgh Press, Oct. 11, 1951.

“Negroes Won’t Fight Russia, Robeson Says,” Los Angeles Times, Apr. 21, 1949.

Paul Pushkin, “Robeson Pleased With the Soviet Social Scheme,” Baltimore Afro-American, Jan. 19, 1935.

John Meroney, “The Red-Baiting of Lena Horne,” The Atlantic, Aug. 27, 2015,

“Negro Leader Takes Issue With Robeson,” Los Angeles Times, Apr. 21, 1949.

This episode includes excerpts from the following:

Clip from Show Boat of Robeson singing "Ol' Man River."

Robeson's post-1938 version of the lyrics:

Lena Horne interviewed on KPFA radio, 1966:

Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music:

Lena Horne talking to Shirley Eder in 1969:


This episode was written by Karina Longworth and Matthew Dessem, and edited by Sam Dingman. Our production and research assistant is Lindsey D. Schoenholtz. Our logo was designed by Teddy Blanks.