The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC, or House Committee on Un-American Activities, or HCUA) was an investigative committee of the United States House of Representatives. The HUAC was created in 1938 to investigate alleged disloyalty and subversive activities on the part of private citizens, public employees, and those organizations suspected of having Fascist or Communist ties. In 1969, the House changed the committee's name to "House Committee on Internal Security". When the House abolished the committee in 1975, its functions were transferred to the House Judiciary Committee.
The committee's anti-communist investigations are often associated with those of Joseph McCarthy who, as a U.S. Senator, had no direct involvement with this House committee. McCarthy was the chairman of the Government Operations Committee and its Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the U.S. Senate, not the House.
The Overman Committee was a subcommittee of the Committee on the Judiciary chaired by North Carolina Democratic Senator Lee Slater Overman that operated from September 1918 to June 1919. The subcommittee investigated German as well as Bolshevik elements in the United States.
This committee was originally concerned with investigating pro-German sentiments in the American liquor industry. After World War I ended in November 1918, and the German threat lessened, the committee began investigating Bolshevism, which had appeared as a threat during the First Red Scare after the Russian Revolution in 1917. The committee's hearing into Bolshevik propaganda, conducted February 11 to March 10, 1919, had a decisive role in constructing an image of a radical threat to the United States during the first Red Scare.
Congressman Hamilton Fish III (R-NY), who was a fervent anti-communist, introduced, on May 5, 1930, House Resolution 180, which proposed to establish a committee to investigate communist activities in the United States. The resulting committee, commonly known as the Fish Committee, undertook extensive investigations of people and organizations suspected of being involved with or supporting communist activities in the United States. Among the committee's targets were the American Civil Liberties Union and communist presidential candidate William Z. Foster. The committee recommended granting the United States Department of Justice more authority to investigate communists, and strengthening of immigration and deportation laws to keep communists out of the United States.
From 1934 to 1937, the Special Committee on Un-American Activities Authorized to Investigate Nazi Propaganda and Certain Other Propaganda Activities, chaired by John William McCormack (D-MA) and Samuel Dickstein (D-NY), held public and private hearings and collected testimony filling 4,300 pages. The committee was widely known as the McCormack-Dickstein committee. Its mandate was to get "information on how foreign subversive propaganda entered the U.S. and the organizations that were spreading it", and it was replaced with a similar committee that focused on pursuing communists. Its records are held by the National Archives and Records Administration as records related to HUAC.
The committee investigated allegations of a fascist plot to seize the White House, known as the "business plot". Although the plot was widely reported as a hoax, the committee confirmed some details of the accusations.
It has been reported that while Dickstein served on this committee and the subsequent Special investigation Committee, he was paid $1,250 a month by the Soviet NKVD, which hoped to get secret congressional information on anti-communists and pro-fascists. It is unclear whether he actually passed on any information.
On May 26, 1938, the House Committee on Un-American Activities was established as a special investigating committee, reorganized from its previous incarnations as the Fish Committee and the McCormack-Dickstein Committee, to investigate alleged disloyalty and subversive activities on the part of private citizens, public employees, and those organizations suspected of having communist or fascist ties; however, it concentrated its efforts on communists. It was chaired by Martin Dies Jr. (D-Tex.), and therefore known as the Dies Committee.
In 1938, Hallie Flanagan, the head of the Federal Theatre Project, was subpoenaed to appear before the committee to answer the charge the project was overrun with communists. Flanagan was called to testify for only a part of one day, while a clerk from the project was called in for two entire days. It was during this investigation that one of the committee members, Joe Starnes (D-Ala.), famously asked Flanagan whether the Elizabethan era playwright Christopher Marlowe was a member of the Communist Party, and mused "Mr. Euripides" preached class warfare.
The committee also put together an argument for the internment of Japanese Americans known as the "Yellow Report". Organized in response to rumors of Japanese Americans being coddled by the War Relocation Authority (WRA) and news that some former inmates would be allowed to leave camp and Nisei soldiers to return to the West Coast, the committee investigated charges of fifth column activity in the camps. A number of anti-WRA arguments were presented in subsequent hearings, but Director Dillon Myer debunked the more inflammatory claims. The investigation was presented to the 77th Congress, and alleged that certain cultural traits – Japanese loyalty to the Emperor, the number of Japanese fishermen in the US, and the Buddhist faith – were evidence for Japanese espionage. With the exception of Rep. Herman Eberharter (D-Pa.), the members of the committee seemed to support internment, and its recommendations to expedite the impending segregation of "troublemakers", establish a system to investigate applicants for leave clearance, and step up Americanization and assimilation efforts largely coincided with WRA goals.
In 1946, the committee considered opening investigations into the Ku Klux Klan, but decided against doing so, prompting white supremacist committee member John E. Rankin (D-Miss.) to remark, "After all, the KKK is an old American institution." Instead of the Klan, HUAC concentrated on investigating the possibility that the American Communist Party had infiltrated the Works Progress Administration, including the Federal Theatre Project and the Federal Writers' Project. Twenty years later, in 1965–1966, however, the committee did conduct an investigation into Klan activities under chairman Edwin Willis (D-La.).
The House Committee on Un-American Activities became a standing (permanent) committee in 1945. Democratic Representative Edward J. Hart of New Jersey became the committee's first chairman. Under the mandate of Public Law 601, passed by the 79th Congress, the committee of nine representatives investigated suspected threats of subversion or propaganda that attacked "the form of government as guaranteed by our Constitution".
Under this mandate, the committee focused its investigations on real and suspected communists in positions of actual or supposed influence in the United States society. A significant step for HUAC was its investigation of the charges of espionage brought against Alger Hiss in 1948. This investigation ultimately resulted in Hiss's trial and conviction for perjury, and convinced many of the usefulness of congressional committees for uncovering communist subversion.
In 1947, the committee held nine days of hearings into alleged communist propaganda and influence in the Hollywood motion picture industry. After conviction on contempt of Congress charges for refusal to answer some questions posed by committee members, "The Hollywood Ten" were blacklisted by the industry. Eventually, more than 300 artists – including directors, radio commentators, actors, and particularly screenwriters – were boycotted by the studios. Some, like Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, Alan Lomax, Paul Robeson, and Yip Harburg, left the U.S or went underground to find work. Others like Dalton Trumbo wrote under pseudonyms or the names of colleagues. Only about ten percent succeeded in rebuilding careers within the entertainment industry.
In 1947, studio executives told the committee that wartime films – such as Mission to Moscow, The North Star, and Song of Russia – could be considered pro-Soviet propaganda, but claimed that the films were valuable in the context of the Allied war effort, and that they were made (in the case of Mission to Moscow) at the request of White House officials. In response to the House investigations, most studios produced a number of anti-communist and anti-Soviet propaganda films such as The Red Menace (August 1949), The Red Danube (October 1949), The Woman on Pier 13 (October 1949), Guilty of Treason (May 1950, about the ordeal and trial of Cardinal József Mindszenty), I Was a Communist for the FBI (May 1951, Academy Award nominated for best documentary 1951, also serialized for radio), Red Planet Mars (May 1952), and John Wayne's Big Jim McLain (August 1952). Universal-International Pictures was the only major studio that did not produce such a film.
On July 31, 1948, the committee heard testimony from Elizabeth Bentley, an American who had been working as a Soviet agent in New York. Among those whom she named as communists was Harry Dexter White. The committee subpoenaed Whittaker Chambers for August 3, 1948. Chambers, too, was a former Soviet spy, by then a senior editor of Time magazine.
Chambers named more than a half dozen government officials including White as well as Alger Hiss (and Hiss' brother Donald). Most of these former officials refused to answer committee questions, citing the Fifth Amendment. White denied the allegations, and died of a heart attack a few days later. Hiss also denied all charges; however, doubts about his testimony, especially those expressed by freshman Congressman Richard Nixon, led to further investigation that strongly suggested Hiss had made a number of false statements. Hiss challenged Chambers to repeat his charges outside of a Congressional committee, which Chambers did. Hiss sued for libel, leading Chambers to produce copies of State Department documents which he claimed Hiss had given him in 1938. Hiss denied this before a grand jury, was indicted for perjury, and was convicted and imprisoned. The present-day House of Representatives website on HUAC states that, "In the 1990s, relying on Soviet archives and records from the Venona project – a secret U.S. program that decrypted Soviet intelligence messages – some scholars argued that Hiss had indeed been a spy on the Kremlin's payroll."
In the wake of the downfall of McCarthy (who never served in the House, nor HUAC), the prestige of HUAC began a gradual decline beginning in the late 1950s. By 1959, the committee was being denounced by former President Harry S. Truman as the "most un-American thing in the country today".
In May 1960, the committee held hearings in San Francisco City Hall that led to the infamous riot on May 13, when city police officers fire-hosed protesting students from UC Berkeley, Stanford, and other local colleges and dragged them down the marble steps beneath the rotunda, leaving some seriously injured. Soviet affairs expert William Mandel, who had been subpoenaed to testify, angrily denounced the committee and the police in a blistering statement which was aired repeatedly for years thereafter on Pacifica Radio station KPFA in Berkeley. An anti-communist propaganda film, Operation Abolition, was produced by the committee from subpoenaed local news reports, and shown around the country during 1960 and 1961. In response, the Northern California ACLU produced a film called Operation Correction, which discussed falsehoods in the first film. Scenes from the hearings and protest were later featured in the Academy Award-nominated 1990 documentary Berkeley in the Sixties.
The committee lost considerable prestige as the 1960s progressed, increasingly becoming the target of political satirists and the defiance of a new generation of political activists. HUAC subpoenaed Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman of the Yippies in 1967, and again in the aftermath of the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The Yippies used the media attention to make a mockery of the proceedings. Rubin came to one session dressed as a Revolutionary War soldier and passed out copies of the United States Declaration of Independence to people in attendance. Rubin then "blew giant gum bubbles, while his co-witnesses taunted the committee with Nazi salutes". Rubin attended another session dressed as Santa Claus. On another occasion, police stopped Hoffman at the building entrance and arrested him for wearing the United States flag. Hoffman quipped to the press, "I regret that I have but one shirt to give for my country", paraphrasing the last words of revolutionary patriot Nathan Hale; Rubin, who was wearing a matching Viet Cong flag, shouted that the police were communists for not arresting him also.
Hearings in August 1966 called to investigate anti-Vietnam War activities were disrupted by hundreds of protesters, many from the Progressive Labor Party. The committee faced witnesses who were openly defiant.
According to The Harvard Crimson:
In the fifties, the most effective sanction was terror. Almost any publicity from HUAC meant the 'blacklist'. Without a chance to clear his name, a witness would suddenly find himself without friends and without a job. But it is not easy to see how in 1969, a HUAC blacklist could terrorize an SDS activist. Witnesses like Jerry Rubin have openly boasted of their contempt for American institutions. A subpoena from HUAC would be unlikely to scandalize Abbie Hoffman or his friends.
In an attempt to reinvent itself, the committee was renamed as the Internal Security Committee in 1969.
The House Committee on Internal Security was formally terminated on January 14, 1975, the day of the opening of the 94th Congress. The Committee's files and staff were transferred on that day to the House Judiciary Committee.
McCarthy's House Un-American Activities Committee
PLP brought 800 people for 3 days of the sharpest struggle that Capital Hill had seen in 30 years. PL members shocked the inquisitors when they openly proclaimed their communist beliefs and then went on into long sharp detailed explanations, which didn't spare the HUAC Congressmen being called every name in the book.
Arthur Kallet (December 15, 1902 in Syracuse, New York – February 24, 1972 in New Rochelle, New York) was a leading consumer advocate.
An engineer, Kallet co-authored a 1933 book entitled 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs: Dangers in Everyday Foods, Drugs and Cosmetics with fellow engineer Frederick Schlink.
In 1936 he left as director of Consumers Research after its head F.J. Schlink fired three striking employees who had tried to form a union, and joined with Amherst College professor Colston Warne (who would chair the CU board from 1936 to 1979) to found Consumers Union and Consumer Reports.
The House Un-American Activities Committee cited Arthur Kallet as the communist head of Consumers Union, which it cited as a communist front.In 1957 Kallet broke with Warne and left Consumers Union to form The Medical Letter, Inc., and in 1961 Buyer's Laboratory.
He died of viral pneumonia.Conde McGinley
Michael Conde McGinley (October 13, 1890 – July 2, 1963) was the editor of a semi-monthly paper called Common Sense who received US-wide attention for a brief period due to his campaign against the nomination of Anna M. Rosenberg. This campaign led to an investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee.Defending Dissent Foundation
The Defending Dissent Foundation (DDF), previously known for many years as the National Committee Against Repressive Legislation (NCARL) and formed in 1960 as the National Committee to Abolish HUAC, is a national not-for-profit advocacy organization in the United States, dedicated to defending the right of political dissent.
Based in Washington, D.C., NCARL was founded in 1960 as a group opposing the House Un-American Activities Committee (known popularly by the acronym HUAC) of the U.S. House of Representatives. It formed in Southern California as an outgrowth of 1950s efforts against McCarthyism that had been led by the Southern California Civil Liberties Union (a unit of the American Civil Liberties Union) and the Citizens Committee to Preserve American Freedoms. Called The National Committee to Abolish HUAC, the group changed its name to NCARL after HUAC was abolished in 1975. In 2007, NCARL changed its name again, to the Defending Dissent Foundation.The organization's founding director and long-time head, Frank Wilkinson, was cited for contempt by HUAC in 1961 and sent to jail on May 1, 1961. In 1984 it was discovered that, under the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover, the Federal Bureau of Investigation had compiled a 132,000-page file on Wilkinson.DDF identifies itself as a member of several coalitions of U.S. advocacy groups:
Charity and Security Network
Rights Working Group
United for Peace and Justice
Free Expression Network
Alliance for Justice
Cybersecurity Working Group
D.C. Bill of Rights CommitteeThe organization publishes a monthly newsletter, archived online.Donald L. Jackson
Donald Lester Jackson (January 23, 1910 – May 27, 1981) was a U.S. Representative from California.
Born in Ipswich, Edmunds County, South Dakota, Jackson attended the public schools of South Dakota and California.
He served as a private in the United States Marine Corps from 1927 to 1931 and again from 1940 until discharged as a Colonel in 1945 with two years' combat service overseas. He engaged in public relations, and worked as a reporter and editor in Santa Monica, California from 1938 to 1940. He served as director of publicity for the city of Santa Monica, in 1939 and 1940.
Jackson was a congressional adviser at the ninth conference of American States at Bogotá, Colombia in 1948 and was elected as a Republican to the Eightieth and to the six succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1947 – January 3, 1961). His congressional service included the House Un-American Activities Committee, and a notable role in accusing Methodist Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam of engaging in communist activities. He was not a candidate for renomination in 1960.
Jackson was appointed to the House Un-American Activities Committee to replace future President Richard Nixon, who had just been elected to the United States Senate.He worked as a radio and television commentator from 1960 to 1968, and was appointed by President Nixon as a commissioner on Interstate Commerce Commission in 1969.
Jackson resided in Sosua, Dominican Republic, West Indies, until his death in Bethesda, Maryland, May 27, 1981. He was interred in Arlington National Cemetery.Edward K. Barsky
Edward K. "Eddie" Barsky (June 6, 1895 – February 11, 1975) was an American surgeon and political activist. Barsky is best remembered as the head of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee, a Communist Party-sponsored organization which raised funds to aid refugees from the regime of Spanish strongman Francisco Franco in the late 1930s during the Spanish Civil War. In the 1950s Barsky became a cause célèbre as a victim of McCarthyism when he was imprisoned for refusing to provide information to the House Un-American Activities Committee.Elsa Knight Thompson
Elsa Knight Thompson, née Elsie Eloise Knight (April 6, 1906 – February 12, 1983), was an American radio documentary maker and broadcaster.
Knight Thompson was Public Affairs Director at Pacifica Radio's KPFA in the San Francisco Bay Area, from 1957 to the early 1970s. She later worked as KPFA's Program Director. Her documentary programs and interviews won numerous broadcasting awards. She was a pathfinder for women in broadcasting and a leading figure in the history of Pacifica Radio and KPFA. Her style of radio influenced generations of public broadcasters.
While at KPFA, Thompson produced programs on civil rights issues, the rise of the Black Panther Party and the Vietnam War, as well as her 1960 documentary on the House Un-American Activities Committee called Black Friday. She worked for the Pacific News Service in San Francisco from 1975 to 1979.
She was born in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, to Murel Bolden and Earl Knight. At the British Broadcasting Corporation in London during World War II, she headed the international desk of the program Radio Newsreel. Thompson was one of the first journalists to interview survivors of Nazi concentration camps.
She died at the age of 76 in Oakland, California.Film gris
Film gris (French for "grey film"), a term coined by Thom Andersen, is a type of film noir which categorizes a unique series of films that were released between 1947 and 1951. They came in the context of the first wave of the communist investigations of the House Un-American Activities Committee.Francis E. Walter
Francis Eugene Walter (May 26, 1894 – May 31, 1963) was a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania. Walter was a prominent member of the House Un-American Activities Committee from 1951 to 1963, serving as chair of that committee for the last nine of those years. He was a Democrat who wanted to minimize immigration and was largely responsible for the McCarran–Walter Act of 1952, which kept the old quotas but also opened up many new opportunities for legal immigration to the US.Frank Tarloff
Frank Tarloff (February 4, 1916 – June 25, 1999) was a blacklisted American screenwriter who won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Father Goose.A child of Polish immigrant parents, Tarloff grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where he attended Abraham Lincoln High School and Brooklyn College. He began writing for stage and radio in the 1940s, and his first major film credit was Behave Yourself!. He was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1953, was categorized as a hostile witness, and was blacklisted. He spent the next 12 years living with family in England and writing under pseudonyms such as "David Adler" for shows such as I Married Joan, The Real McCoys, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and Andy Griffith Show.
He received the Academy Award for Father Goose together with S. H. Barnett and Peter Stone and was also nominated for the Writers Guild of America Award for best comedy writing. He received a WGA Award nomination for best comedy writing for A Guide for the Married Man, which he wrote on his own. He is also known for co-writing The Secret War of Harry Frigg.
He returned to television at the end of his career, writing for The Jeffersons.Guilty by Suspicion
Guilty by Suspicion is a 1991 American drama film about the Hollywood blacklist, McCarthyism, and the activities of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Written and directed by Irwin Winkler, it starred Robert De Niro, Annette Bening, and George Wendt.
The film was entered into the 1991 Cannes Film Festival.Harold H. Velde
Harold Himmel Velde (April 1, 1910 – September 1, 1985) was a Republican American political figure from Illinois. While United States Congressman for Illinois' 18th congressional district he was chairman of the House Un-American Activities Committee between 1953 and 1955.List of members of the House Un-American Activities Committee
This list of members of the House Un-American Activities Committee details the names of those members of the United States House of Representatives who served on the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) from its formation as the "Special Committee to Investigate Un-American Activities" in 1938 until the dissolution of the "House Internal Security Committee" in 1975.
New members of the committee marked with bold type.Millard Lampell
Millard Lampell (January 23, 1919 – October 3, 1997) was an American movie and television screenwriter who first became publicly known as a member of the Almanac Singers in the 1940s.
He was born in Paterson, New Jersey and studied at the West Virginia University, where he gained his first exposure to folk music. In 1940 he formed the Almanac Singers with Pete Seeger and Lee Hays, later adding Woody Guthrie. Lampell wrote songs with both Seeger and Guthrie, and adapted traditional songs into labor anthems and pro-union messages. During the period of the Hitler-Stalin pact from 1939 to 1941, the group also sang songs attacking Franklin D. Roosevelt as a warmonger and opposing Britain's war against Nazi Germany.
After the Almanac Singers disbanded in 1942, Lampell wrote the lyrics for The Lonesome Train, a ballad opera on the death of Abraham Lincoln, with music composed by Earl Robinson. He went on to a career as a scriptwriter for movies and, later, television. In the 1950s, he refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee and was blacklisted. He wrote the screenplay for the marriage guidance film This Charming Couple (1950) using the pseudonym H. Partnow. Some other of his screenplays were Blind Date (1959) and The Idol (1966).
Notable television plays included The Adams Chronicles and the mini-series Rich Man, Poor Man (both 1976). In 1966, he was awarded an Emmy for his teleplay for the Hallmark Hall of Fame drama Eagle in a Cage. He also wrote novels, and the play The Wall which was produced on Broadway.
Lampell died of lung cancer in 1997 at the age of 78.Robert E. Stripling
Robert E. Stripling (circa 1910-1991) was a 20th-century civil servant, best known as chief investigator of the House Dies Committee and its successor the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), particularly for collaboration with junior congressman Richard Nixon and for testimony gleaned from witness Elizabeth Bentley and Whittaker Chambers, the latter of whose allegations led indirectly to indictment and conviction of State Department official Alger Hiss in January 1950.Sol Shor
Sol Shor (July 17, 1913 – May 1985) was a film and television screenwriter credited mostly with B-westerns and movie serials.
Shor was born in the Bronx and graduated from the City College of New York. After working as general manager of the Novelty Manufacturing Company and as a freelancer, Shor was signed as a writer to Republic Pictures in 1937.
Sol Shor admitted to having been an American Communist Party member before the House Un-American Activities Committee and named other party members in his testimony.Shor died in May 1985 in New Rochelle, New York.Tarzan's Savage Fury
Tarzan's Savage Fury is a 1952 film directed by Cy Endfield and starring Lex Barker as Tarzan, Dorothy Hart as Jane, and Patric Knowles. While most Tarzan films of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s presented Tarzan as a very different character from the one in Edgar Rice Burroughs' novels, this movie does make some allusions to the novels. It was shot in Chatsworth, California's Iverson Movie Ranch. The film was the last to be directed by Cyril "Cy" Endfield in the US. Finding himself one of Hollywood's film-makers blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee he moved to Britain. The film was co-written by Cyril Hume, who'd contributed substantially to the "Tarzan" series back in its bigger budget MGM days.Tiger by the Tail
Tiger by the Tail, also known as Cross-Up, is a 1955 British crime film directed by John Gilling and starring Larry Parks, Constance Smith, Lisa Daniely and Donald Stewart. It is an adaptation of the novel Never Come Back by John Mair. Larry Parks, a memorable Al Jolson in The Jolson Story, had fallen foul of America's House Un-American Activities Committee, and had his first film role for four years starring in this British low budgeter.Walter B. Huber
Walter B. Huber (June 29, 1903 – August 8, 1982) was a U.S. Representative from Ohio.
Born in Akron, Ohio, Huber associated with the Summit County prosecuting attorney 1936-1944.
Huber was elected as a Democrat to the Seventy-ninth, Eightieth, and Eighty-first Congresses (January 3, 1945 – January 3, 1951).
He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1950 to the Eighty-second Congress and for election in 1952 to the Eighty-third Congress.
Investigator for the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights, from October 20, 1955, to April 30, 1958.
Administrative assistant with House Subcommittee on Legislative Oversight from May 1, 1958, to January 3, 1959.
Consultant with House Un-American Activities Committee from 1959 to 1968.
Consultant with an environmental protection association.
Resided in Nanjemoy, Maryland until his death in Lexington Park, Maryland, on August 8, 1982.
He was interred at Christ Church, Ironsides, Maryland.William Mandel
William Marx "Bill" Mandel (June 4, 1917 – November 24, 2016), was an American broadcast journalist, left-wing political activist, and author, best known as a Soviet affairs analyst. He was born in New York City.