Maurice Isserman

“An engaging account of the rise, fall, resurrection and legacy of the Weavers, the Greenwich Village-based quartet of left-leaning musicians founded near the end of 1948,” was how Maurice Isserman, the Publius Virgilius Rogers Professor of American History, described Wasn’t That a Time: The Weavers, the Blacklist, and the Battle for the Soul of America in The New York Times Sunday Book Review section on Dec 2. 

Isserman noted that after Weavers singer Pete Seeger was interrogated by the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952, he “spent years under the threat of imprisonment for, in essence, singing the wrong songs to the wrong people.” The author observed that, “both the red-hunting committee members and their victim ‘shared a common interest and belief in the power of song,’” a sentiment with which Isserman agreed. He did, however, criticize the author’s “grasp of the left-wing political milieu from which [the Weavers] emerged.”

Isserman also reviewed Which Side Are You On? 20th Century American History in 100 Protest Songs, “a broader consideration of the historical impact of political songwriting and performance.”

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