I vaguely remember a story where the world-famous singer Paul Robeson, probably during an anti-war protest demonstration in the 60s, washed the US flag drenched in blood as a result of the policies of US administration.

Can someone confirm this and hopefully point to a source of information please?

My source of information (not recalled unfortunately) or I might perhaps have got the name wrong though. Perhaps somebody else performed this protest act...

Note: Thanks to the comments made below by justCal and sempaiscuba, we have so far found out the following that implies probably something like this did happen:

  1. Norman Thomas, the perennial candidate of the Socialist Party, did suggest washing the US flag instead of burning it, in protest against the Vietnam war, as seen here, and

  2. Apparently, this even inspired a poster made by George Lois & Carl Fischer, as seen here.

  • I don't find any indication of this. By the 1960s Robeson's health was already in decline, the wiki entry list him as retired by 1963, and he died in 1976. You may be thinking of someone else?
    – justCal
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 3:01
  • I guess it's just a hearsay but I wish I were able to recall a little bit more :-( Who actually did this and when could well be different. I just remember this as a significant symbolic act that suggests a more civil alternative to the widespread "flag burning" ;-)
    – Sadi
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 8:06
  • 1
    I did find one mention of washing flags as protest, here, no mention of Robeson however.
    – justCal
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 13:33
  • Where do you remember the story from? Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 23:54
  • 1
    Again, it doesn't feature Robeson, but this poster by George Lois & Carl Fischer, originally from c1970 I think, carried the message "Don't burn your flag--wash it!" Commented Oct 16, 2018 at 10:22

1 Answer 1


There is indeed one such record of protest action except the name of the US singer who performed it is not Paul Robeson, but Dean Reed, as seen here:

Dean Reed washing the US flag in Chile

The famous US singer, songwriter, actor and director Dean Reed washed the flag of the United States (stained with the blood of millions of people in many countries, he said) in front of the US Embassy in Santiago de Chile on 1 September 1970, a week prior to the election of Chilean president Salvador Allende.

He was arrested by the Chilean police immediately there and then, but the world-renowned Chilean poet Pablo Neruda helped him to get out of jail. Some believe this played some part in the victory of the Unidad Popular (coalition of socialist and communist parties of Chile) led by Allende during that presidential election by a narrow margin of less than 1% which was overthrown by a bloody military coup d'état heavily backed by Washington in 1973.

Note: Thanks to Herbert Griessig for this answer offered on Facebook. Apparently I confused the name of the singer probably because I heard about this through a poem written for Dean Reed (which also mentioned Paul Robeson).

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