Aaron J. Leonard - “The Folk Singers and the Bureau: The FBI, The Folk Artists, and the Suppression of the Communist Party, USA - 1939-1956”

Lecture Series

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

6:00PM -7:00PM


Join the International House Global Voices Lecture Series as we partner with the Seminary Co-op Boookstores and Repeater Books to host Aaron J. Leonard in conversation with Steven Garabedian. Leonard will discuss his book, The Folk Singers and the Bureau: The FBI, The Folk Artists, and the Suppression of the Communist Party, USA - 1939-1956.

About the book: Some of the most prominent folk singers of the twentieth century, including Woody Guthrie, Sis Cunningham, Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, Burl Ives, were also political activists with various associations with the American Communist Party. As a consequence, the FBI, along with other governmental and right-wing organizations, were monitoring them, keeping meticulous files running many thousands of pages, and making (and carrying out) plans to purge them from the cultural realm. In The Folk Singers and the Bureau, Aaron J. Leonard draws on an unprecedented array of declassified documents, including never before released files, to shed light on how these left-wing folk artists and  their relationship with the American Communist Party, put them in the US government's repressive cross hairs. At a time of increasing state surveillance and repression, The Folk Singers and the Bureau shows how the FBI and other governmental agencies have attempted to shape and repress American culture.

About the author: Aaron J. Leonard is a writer and historian with a particular focus on the history of radicalism and state suppression. He is the author of Heavy Radicals: The FBI’s Secret War on America’s Maoists and A Threat of the First Magnitude—FBI Counterintelligence & Infiltration: From the Communist Party to the Revolutionary Union. Leonard has a BA in history from New York University and lives in Los Angeles.

About the interlocutor: Steven Garabedian is Assistant Professor of History and Intern Coordinator of History/Public History/American Studies. He holds a PhD in American Studies from the University of Minnesota. He is an historian of the twentieth-century U.S., with a research specialization in race, music, and radicalism, and a teaching concentration in U.S. public history and African American studies. He has published articles and reviews in American Quarterly, African American Review, Popular Music & Society, Peace and Change: A Journal of Peace Research, Hudson River Valley Review, Journal of Southern History, Transformations: The Journal of Inclusive Scholarship and Pedagogy, and XCP: Cross-Cultural Poetics. Currently, he is at work on a monograph, Lawrence Gellert, Black Musical Protest, and White Denial. The book traces the rise and fall of a little-known leftwing independent music collector as it explores changing perceptions of African American musical resistance in the twentieth century.

Click here to acess the livestream.

For more information and to purchase the book, click here.

Presented by the International House Global Voices Lecture Series, The Seminary Co-op Bookstores, and Repeater Books.