THE TRIAL of the 50 was held in the headlines of a hostile press—the press adjudged them guilty.
Weeks after the news was cold they were given the right they had demanded— to appear at a public hearing and give the lie to the accusations that had been levelled against them.
With dignity they presented their record of scholarship and research. With pride they offered the unsolicited testimony of colleagues and students. With courage they challenged the Rapp-Coudert Committee and its evil work.
“You dare not say that you are endeavoring to effect my dismissal from City College because I oppose your program of retrenchment and war, your program of fascism.”
Another flung back the charge of conspiratorial activity in the face of the Committee. “It was openly and not in conspiratorial fashion that we won tenure and democracy and academic freedom at the public colleges of the city, and it is in the same way, openly and publicly, that we shall retain them.”
A third: “It is my belief, gentlemen, that if I loved my country and my people less, if I had kept my beliefs to myself, if I had not exercised my duty as an American citizen to keep my country democratic and at peace, that my name would never have come up in your investigation.”
The times need more men who will speak like that. There are too many tired fighters—men who once put up a fight, or say they did. “Now it’s 1941,” they tell you, “times are tough, it’s wise to lie low, wait till the storm blows over.”
The only time freedom needs defending is when it’s under attack. Voices must be loud and courageous today to be heard above the storm.