Rockwell Kent, This is My Own - New York State Museum.
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Kent, Paul Robeson, and unknown man, c.1950
Kent, Paul Robeson, and unknown man, c.1950

    Kent joined the Socialist Party in 1908, but it was not until the 1930s that he became truly active in social and political causes.

    When the Spanish Civil War erupted, he was one of eight artists who set up easels around New York City, trying to draw attention to the destruction of Spain’s democracy.

    Closest to Kent’s heart was the International Workers Order (IWO ). Organized in 1930 as a fraternal benefit insurance company comprised of many different ethnic lodges, the IWO provided low-cost life insurance to its members, many of whom were recent immigrants to the United States. Kent was elected president of the IWO in 1944.

    In 1951, New York state’s Department of Insurance filed suit to have the IWO declared a Communist front and a threat to the country. Despite three days of eloquent testimony by Kent, who was one of only two IWO officers who were not members of the Communist Party, the court ordered that the organization be dissolved.

    Two years later, Kent was called before U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Books written by so-called subversive authors, including Kent, were being removed from the shelves of the State Department’s libraries overseas and then destroyed.

    When Kent tried to read a prepared statement charging McCarthy with treason, the senator said, “I’ll not hear a lecture from you, Mr. Kent. To which Kent replied, “You certainly won’t, I get paid for my lectures.”
Kent at the opening of his war poster exhibition, 1942
Kent at the opening of his war poster exhibition, 1942
(Victor Kayfetz, photographer, 1 photographic print: b&w; 20 x 24 cm.
Courtesy of the Rockwell Kent papers, ca. 1840-1993,
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.)
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Thumbnail ImageAugust XXIII, MCMXXVII, 1927
wood engraving
Bequest of Sally Kent Gorton
[P52000.9.50.1]
Thumbnail ImageNew Masses: Sketch for Cover Illustration, September 15th, 1936 Issue, 1936
pencil on paper
Bequest of Sally Kent Gorton
[P52000.67]
Thumbnail ImageThat Spain's Children May Live, 1937
lithograph
Gift of Sally Kent Gorton
[X1978.2.148]
Thumbnail ImageWorkers of the World, Unite!, 1937
wood engraving
Bequest of Sally Kent Gorton
[P52000.9.49.1]
Thumbnail ImageOnce In 2000 Years, 1938
linecut on paper
Gift of Sally Kent Gorton
[X1978.2.90]
Thumbnail ImageGet the Hell Out! Poster Study, 1940
pencil on paper
Bequest of Sally Kent Gorton
[P52000.87.1]
Thumbnail ImageWell America How About It: War Poster Study, 1942
pencil on paper
Bequest of Sally Kent Gorton
[P52000.150]
Thumbnail ImageWomen and War, c.1942
ink on board
Bequest of Sally Kent Gorton
[P52000.34]
Thumbnail ImageFollow Me, c.1942
ink on paper mounted on board
Bequest of Sally Kent Gorton
[P52000.59]
Thumbnail ImageGlory, Glory, Hallelujah, 1944
lithograph
Bequest of Sally Kent Gorton
[P52000.9.34.2]
Thumbnail ImageEternal Vigilance Is The Price Of Liberty, 1945
lithograph
Gift of Sally Kent Gorton
[X1978.2.31]
Thumbnail ImageHeavy Heavy Hangs Over Thy Head, 1946
lithograph
Gift of Sally Kent Gorton
[X1978.2.30]
Thumbnail ImageSave This Right Hand, 1949
lithograph, color
Museum Purchase, Sally Kent Gorton Endowment
[P52004.16.1.]
Thumbnail ImageSmith Act, 1951
lithograph
Gift of Sally Kent Gorton
[X1978.2.53]
Thumbnail ImageFemale Figure with Sword and US Flag, n.d.
ink on paper
Bequest of Sally Kent Gorton
[P52000.197]
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