In the early 50s, folks worked themselves up into a real dither searching for Bolsheviks here, there, wherever they may be hiding. There was a commie round every corner; any person you met might be a secret pinko, hoping to lead you down the slippery slope to socialism and the dreaded one world.
We remember Joseph McCarthy and the infamy of his search for traitors in the State Department, Hollywood and the PTA. But there were many McCarthy wannabes – good folk just itching to unveil a neighbor or loved one’s clandestine proclivities and nefarious schemes to indoctrinate the unaware.
Mrs. Thomas J. White of the Indiana Textbook Commission, was a bit of a zealot when it came to finding communist propaganda in the seemingly innocent written word. On November 13, 1953, she announced an amazing discovery in textbooks used by the state’s schools. She called for the banning of the book Robin Hood and any references to it.
There was, she said, “a Communist directive in education now to stress the story of Robin Hood because he robbed the rich and gave it to the poor. That’s the Communist line. It’s just a smearing of law and order and anything that disrupts law and order is their meat.” On somewhat of a roll, she went on to attack Quakers because they “don’t believe in fighting wars.” This philosophy, she argued, played into communist hands.
Not everyone in Indiana jumped on her bandwagon. Reacting to criticism, White claimed that she never argued for the actual removal of offensive texts, but reiterated her position that the “take from the rich and give to the poor” theme was the Communist’s favorite policy. “Because I’m trying to get Communist writers out of textbooks, my name is mud. Evidently I’m drawing blood or they wouldn’t make such an issue out of it.” The response to Mrs. White’s charges was mixed.
Indiana’s governor defended the Quakers, but sidestepped the textbook issue. The superintendent of education, having it both ways, said that the book should not be banned, but agreed that communists had twisted the meaning of the Robin Hood legend. Commentators throughout the world were thoroughly amused. The “enrollment of Robin Hood in the Communist Party can only make sensible people laugh,” said the Russians. Even the current sheriff of Nottingham chimed in: “Robin Hood was no communist.”
Robin Hood was spared, free to rob from the rich another day. Other books during the Red Scare were not so fortunate: The Grapes of Wrath, Civil Disobedience, 1984, Johnny Got His Gun to name a few. Hollywood also felt the pressure to produce pro-American stories. And then there was that other obviously communist-inspired phenomenon, rock and roll. We won’t even mention those merry men.
Inspiration for 11/13/16