Α turning point in Parker’s life came in 1927 when she went to Boston to protest the executions of Sacco and Vanzetti. It was her first political action, but it came from deep inside her, and she persisted—infiltrating the prison, getting arrested, marching with other writers like John Dos Passos, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Katherine Anne Porter. They didn’t prevail at this low point in the history of justice in America, but she hadn’t backed down. And as time would show, her actions were not just some outburst of what, decades later, would come to be labeled radical chic.

From then on she was committed to liberal or radical causes. She vigorously supported the Loyalists in Spain, even spending ten days with Alan under the bombs in Madrid and Valencia. She helped found the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League. Whether she actually joined the Communist Party for a short time remains an unanswered question. Although Hellman claimed she was subpoenaed by HUAC and appeared before the committee, this (like so much else in Hellman’s memoirs) is simply untrue. She was, though, visited by two FBIagents in 1951. When they asked her whether she had ever conspired to overthrow the government, she answered, “Listen, I can’t even get my dog to stay down. Do I look to you like someone who could overthrow the government?” The FBI gave her a pass.

In the 1930s she had raised money for the defense of the Scottsboro boys, and she never relaxed her efforts in the field of civil rights: when she died, in 1967, her literary estate was left to Martin Luther King, and then to the NAACP, and her ashes are buried in a memorial garden at the organization’s headquarters in Baltimore.


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