The Justice, the Informer, and the Composer: The Roy Harris Case and the Dynamics of Anti-Communism in Pittsburgh in the Early 1950s

Main Article Content

Richard P. Mulcahy


Michael Musmanno, a staunch liberal, was a colorful figure in Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania politics. He loathed Communism, taking up the anti-Communist crusade in 1950. He was joined in this by Matt Cvetic, a former paid FBI informant in the Communist Party, who styled himself as a former “FBI undercover agent.” Roy E. Harris, an American composer on the order of Aaron Copland, was brought to Pittsburgh to serve as composer-in-residence at the Pennsylvania College for Women. His coming was part of Mayor David Lawrence’s Pittsburgh Renaissance. Harris was accused by Cvetic and Musmanno of being a Soviet sympathizer since he dedicated his Fifth Symphony to the Soviet people during World War II, creating a McCarthy-style controversy. This article shows how backers of the Renaissance supported Harris and fought off the accusations, and offers thoughts on the case’s broader implications and long-term impact.

Article Details