Remembering Pete Seeger

It must have been at the concert he gave at Harvard on May 18, 1961 that I first saw and heard Pete Seeger in person. It was so long ago, and my memories so imprecise, I had to search the Harvard Crimson to be sure of the date. What I remember clearly is that the event was more than musical, that I and many of us at Harvard (I was a junior) knew that his appearance at that time, and our support, was a strong political statement, our protest against the suppression of critical speech (and song) that was orchestrated by the right-wing press and business interests and their men in Congress. Seeger had a "contempt of Congress" conviction, carrying a one-year jail sentence, pending against him (he had refused to name names) and on that pretext, Harvard had initially banned the concert. But there was sufficient pro-free speech sentiment at Harvard, including not just among us students but even on the law faculty, to make the university president relent. And as I recall, the house was packed. I don't remember what he sang, but I remember him as tall, dignified, and weary. He was under tremendous pressure. And grateful for our presence, as we were delighted by his. See this May 8, 1961, article in the Crimson.