The Chicago Tribune reported that a Peoria performance by black singer Paul Robeson was cancelled after the Peoria City Council moved to ban the appearance of “any speaker or artist who is an avowed or active propagandist for un-American ideology.” The city council’s resolution was intended to prevent the “enthusiastic follower of the Communist party” from performing.
The event marked the beginning of the blacklisting of Robeson, who had been affiliated with radical causes through the 1930s and 1940s. Peoria’s City Council was responding, in part, to the investigation of Robeson by the House Committee on Un-American Activities, a major arm of political McCarthyism through the early-1950s.
According to the Tribune, Robeson was offered a smaller performance venue, Peoria City Hall, for his cancelled concert slot. Drawing on the fighting language of World War II, Robeson accused the city council of “fascist techniques.” The Tribune put a Cold War spin on Robeson’s word choice: it noted that Robeson’s charge of fascism was “often hurled at political opponents of communists.”