Trojan Tales

Trojan Tales: Blacklist Benches Commemorate Red Scare

The "Hollywood Ten" are remembered in a garden behind the Fisher Museum

The Blacklist Project art installation is a peaceful, secluded garden behind the Fisher Museum, across the street from Exposition Park, featuring ten red marble benches engraved with quotes.

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The installation was unveiled in 1999 by artist Jenny Holzer in response to undergraduate student Drew Weinbrenner's request to raise awareness of the "Hollywood Ten."

In the early 1940s, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) began to examine artists, including filmmakers, actors and writers, accusing them of having subversive political beliefs and supporting Communism.

Ten artists, initially named the "Unfriendly Ten," refused to testify and insisted on exercising their First Amendment rights. Congress cited them for contempt and they were imprisoned or blacklisted, making it impossible for many of them to work in Hollywood.

By the late 1940s and early 1950s, big name studios blacklisted more actors and filmmakers, leaving them out of jobs.

"Blacklisting ended careers and ruined lives. It silenced public debate, undermined due process and freedom of thought, and weakened the elaborate protections of the minority that safeguard American liberty," Holzer said.

Holzer selected red and grey slabs engraved with quotes to make up five paths leading to the central garden.

Quotes on the red slabs offer an alternative perspective to the ones on the grey slabs, giving many different opinions as a way to promote freedom of ideas and speech as an American ideology. The benches carry quotes from the "Hollywood Ten."

"Every time someone comes by and looks at this, we're supposed to remember that freedom of speech and the First Amendment is one of the core American values," Ani Mnatsakanyan, the Fisher Museum's Education and Program Coordinator, said.

Selma Holo, director of the Fisher Museum, suggested that the meaning behind the installation is more relevant than ever.

"As we get into times of crisis, and we seem to be in a perpetual crisis these days, the preserving of our First Amendment right to speak, and especially in the university environment, is great to have," Holo said.