Feb 272014
 

Actor/singer Paul Robeson, June 1942. Long controversial for his outspokenly pro-Soviet views, Robeson would appear before HUAC in 1956. Source:U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black & White Photographs, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/fsa/item/fsa1998023680/PP/

In honor of African-American History Month, here is a brief bibliography of publications relevant to African-American History from the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and its successor, the House Committee on Internal Security. Please note that this list is far from exhaustive:

Activities of Ku Klux Klan Organizations in the United States. Hearings Before the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Eighty-Ninth Congress, First (-Second) Session. 1965-66, 5 pts. + index (Joyner Docs CWIS: Y 4: Un 1/2: K 95; circulating copy in Joyner Docs Stacks: Y 4: Un 1/2: K 95)

The American Negro in the Communist Party. Prepared and Released by the Committee on Un-American Activities, U.S. House of Representatives. December 22, 1954. (Joyner Docs CWIS: Y 4: Un 1/2: N 31)

Black Panther Party. Hearings Before the Committee on Internal Security, House of Representatives, Ninety-First Congress, Second Session. 1970-71, 4 pts. (Joyner Docs CWIS: Y 4: In 8/15: B 56)

The Black Panther Party: Its Origin and Development as Reflected in its Official Weekly Newspaper The Black Panther, Black Community News Service: Staff Study. Committee on Internal Security, House of Representatives, Ninety-First Congress, Second Session. 1970. (Joyner Docs CWIS: Y 4: In 8/15: B 56/2)

Gun-Barrel Politics, the Black Panther Party, 1966-1971. Report by the Committee on Internal Security, House of Representatives, Ninety-Second Congress, First Session. August 18, 1971. (Joyner Docs CWIS: Y 1.1/8: 92-470)

Hearings Regarding Communist Infiltration of Minority Groups. Hearings Before the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Eighty First Congress, First Session. 1949-50, 3 pts. (Joyner Docs CWIS: Y 4: Un 1/2: C 73/11/)

-Pt. 1 includes testimony by baseball legend Jackie Robinson. The transcript of Robinson’s appearance can be found on p. 479-83.

Investigation of the Unauthorized Use of United States Passports, Part 3. Hearings Before the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Eighty-Fourth Congress, Second Session. June 12-13, 1956.  (Joyner Docs CWIS: Y 4: Un 1/2: P 26/pt. 3; circulating copy in Joyner Docs Stacks: Y 4: Un 1/2: P 26/pt. 3)

-Features the transcript of African-American actor/singer Paul Robeson’s only appearance before HUAC. Robeson’s testimony can be found from p. 4492-4510.

Subversive Influences in Riots, Looting, and Burning. Hearings Before the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Ninetieth Congress, First (-Second) Session. 1968-69, 6 pts. (Joyner Docs CWIS: Y 4: Un 1/2: R 47/)

 

Feb 052014
 

Pete Seeger arrives at a Federal courthouse for sentencing with his banjo over his shoulder, April 4, 1961. Seeger had been convicted of contempt of Congress on March 29 for his refusal to cooperate with HUAC in 1955. Seeger was sentenced to a year in prison, but his conviction was overturned on appeal the following year. Source: New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2002709318/

On January 27, 2014, the well-known folk singer and left-wing activist Pete Seeger passed away at the age of 94. In his youth, Seeger’s radical politics led him to affiliate with the Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA). He joined the Young Communist League in 1936 and the CPUSA itself several years later. After serving in the army during World War II, Seeger resumed his musical career as part of the famous folk act The Weavers. His musical prominence and continued ties to the CPUSA soon brought him to the attention of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), which by the early 1950s had adopted the mindset that communism was an alien influence that must be removed root and branch from American society.

On August 18, 1955, Pete Seeger appeared before a session of the House Un-American Activities Committee held in New York City. During his testimony before HUAC, Seeger refused to answer any questions about his political beliefs or associations. He did not, however, invoke the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution as grounds for not answering such questions. Instead, he flatly declined on principle to provide such information. As he told the committee early in his appearance:

I am not going to answer any questions as to my associations, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this.

I would be very glad to tell you my life if you want to hear of it. (Investigation of Communist Activities, New York Area. Part 7, p. 2449)

Seeger’s refusal to cooperate with HUAC resulted in his being indicted for contempt of Congress. He was ultimately convicted of this charge in March 1961, and sentenced to a year in prison. However, his conviction was overturned on appeal the following year.

Ironically, Seeger had already quietly backed away from the CPUSA by the time he appeared before HUAC. Eventually, he would openly abandon communism, performing at a 1982 benefit for the anti-communist Polish labor union Solidarity and condemning Joseph Stalin in his 1993 memoirs. After being blacklisted in the 1950s, Seeger reemerged in the 1960s as one of the main influences on that decade’s folk revival, while his song “We Shall Overcome” became one of the anthems of the civil rights movement. Seeger performed at President Obama’s 2009 inauguration and remained active in supporting liberal and left-wing causes until his death.

 

CWIS Sources:

The official transcript of Pete Seeger’s appearance before HUAC can be found in:

Investigation of Communist Activities, New York Area. Part 7: Entertainment. Hearings Before the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Eighty-Fourth Congress, First Session. August 17-18, 1955.  (Joyner Docs CWIS: Y 4: Un 1/2: C 73/55/pt. 7; additional circulating copy in Joyner Docs Stacks: Y 4: Un 1/2: C 73/55/pt. 7)

Seeger’s testimony can be found from p. 2447-2460. Additional CWIS documents referencing Pete Seeger include:

Communist Activities Among Youth Groups (Based on Testimony of Harvey M. Matusow). Hearings Before the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Eighty-Second Congress, Second Session. February 6-7, 1952. (Joyner Docs CWIS: Y 4: Un 1/2: C 73/29)

Investigation of Communist Activities, New York Area. Part 6: Entertainment. Hearings Before the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Eighty-Fourth Congress, First Session. August 15-16, 1955.  (Joyner Docs CWIS: Y 4: Un 1/2: C 73/55/pt. 6; additional circulating copy in Joyner Docs Stacks: Y 4: Un 1/2: C 73/55/pt. 6)

Testimony of Walter S. Steele Regarding Communist Activities in the U.S. Hearings Before the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Eightieth Congress, First Session. July 21, 1947.  (Joyner Docs CWIS: Y 4: Un 1/2: St 3)

 

Additional Sources:

Lithwick, Dahlia. ‘When Pete Seeger Faced Down the House Un-American Activities Committee‘. Slate, January 28, 2014.

Matthews, Dylan. ‘The Washington Post picked its top American Communists. Wonkblog begs to differ‘. Washington Post: Wonkblog, September 26, 2013.

Pareles, Jon. ‘Pete Seeger, Champion of Folk Music and Social Change, Dies at 94‘. New York Times, January 28, 2014.

Radosh, Ron. ‘Time for Pete Seeger To Repent‘. New York Sun, June 12, 2007.

Wakin, Daniel J. ‘This Just In: Pete Seeger Denounced Stalin Over a Decade Ago‘. New York Times, September 1, 2007.

Oct 142013
 
The Klan welcomes visitors to Greenville, n.d. Image courtesy of ECU Digital Collections: http://digital.lib.ecu.edu/23542

The Klan welcomes visitors to Greenville, n.d. Image courtesy of ECU Digital Collections: http://digital.lib.ecu.edu/23542

Note: Dr. David Cunningham, author of Klansville USA: The Rise and Fall of the Civil Rights-Era Ku Klux Klan, the definitive history of the Klan in eastern North Carolina, is speaking at Sheppard Memorial Library on Wednesday, October 16, at 4:30 PM. Anyone interested in this topic is strongly encouraged to attend. Dr. Cunningham’s visit is sponsored by the ECU Department of Sociology.

1. HUAC Turns its Attention to the Klan

By 1965, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) had grown increasingly unpopular and controversial. As the transformation of American culture and society in the 1960s unfolded, HUAC increasingly looked like an anachronism at best and a serious threat to civil liberties at worst. Despite its origins as a special committee to investigate Nazi propaganda in 1934 and its periodic inquiries into domestic Nazi and fascist groups in the 1930s and 40s, by the late 1950s HUAC had adopted the position that it was only empowered to investigate the Communist Party (CPUSA) and other left-wing groups believed to be “subversive” or “un-American.” This bias was one of the major factors contributing to the growing outcry against HUAC and other congressional countersubversive committees. Thus, by 1965 the committee now welcomed the opportunity to investigate a right-wing extremist organization. With the civil rights revolution at its height, just such a target was readily at hand: the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).

HUAC had begun a preliminary inquiry into the Klan in late 1964. On March 30, 1965, just five days after the Klan murdered Viola Liuzzo, a Detroit woman working with the civil rights movement in Alabama, HUAC voted unanimously to launch a full investigation of the KKK. Interestingly, many civil rights organizations opposed HUAC’s investigation, fearing that it would be turned against themselves instead of the Klan.

The most important driving force behind HUAC’s decision to initiate a full-scale inquiry into the KKK was one of the committee’s newest members, Rep. Charles L. Weltner (D-GA). Weltner, representing a district from Atlanta, was the only representative from a former Confederate state to vote for passage of the final version of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He joined HUAC in 1965 eager to use its broad investigative powers against the Klan.

 

2. The Klan in Eastern North Carolina

A cross burning at a Klan rally in the Greenville area, October 1965. Image courtesy of ECU Digital Collections: http://digital.lib.ecu.edu/3690

A cross burning at a Klan rally in the Greenville area, October 1965. Image courtesy of ECU Digital Collections: http://digital.lib.ecu.edu/3690

HUAC began its hearings into the KKK in October 1965. A special subcommittee held hearings from October 19, 1965 to February 24, 1966, and published a final report in December 1967. The committee found that there were a number of separate Klan organizations in the United States, of which the United Klans of America (UKA) was the largest and most powerful. October 1965 testimony by HUAC investigator Philip Manuel revealed that there were an estimated 112 UKA klaverns (local chapters) in North Carolina, making it, in Manuel’s words, “by far the most active state in terms of Klaverns and membership of the UKA.” (Activities of Ku Klux Klan in the U.S., pt. 1, p. 1553)

Of these 112 local Klan chapters, seven were found in Pitt County. Like all UKA klaverns, the ones in Pitt County had innocuous sounding cover names. According to Manuel’s testimony, these seven klaverns were the following:

  • Benevolent Association No. 53 (Greenville)
  • Ogden Christian Fellowship Club No. 53 (Greenville)
  • The Benevolent Association (Winterville)
  • Pitt County Improvement Association No. 37 (Farmville)
  • Ayden Christian Fellowship Club (Ayden)
  • Grifton Christian Society (Grifton)
  • Fountain Klavern (cover name not given)

Each of the counties adjacent to Pitt also contained at least one UKA klavern (Lenoir County had five). In short, as noted journalist Stewart Alsop wrote in a April 1966 profile of the Klan in North Carolina for the Saturday Evening Post: “The hard core of the Klan is in the flat, sandy, cotton-and-tobacco country in the eastern part of the state.” (Alsop, “Portrait”)

 

3. HUAC Investigates the Klan in Pitt County

Farmville native James Huey "Sonny" Fisher, Grand Klokkard (state lecturer) for the North Carolina Realm of the United Klans of America, speaks at an October 1965 Klan rally in Greenville. Fisher would testify before HUAC on October 22, 1965. Images courtesy of ECU Digital Collections: http://digital.lib.ecu.edu/8603

Farmville native James Huey “Sonny” Fisher, Grand Klokkard (state lecturer) for the North Carolina Realm of the United Klans of America, speaks at an October 1965 Klan rally in Greenville. Fisher would testify before HUAC on October 22, 1965. Image courtesy of ECU Digital Collections: http://digital.lib.ecu.edu/8603

With the UKA heavily active in North Carolina, and in eastern North Carolina in particular, it is no surprise that HUAC’s investigation would eventually impact Greenville and Pitt County. Two witnesses, one non-cooperative, one very much cooperative, would travel from Pitt County to testify before HUAC.

James Huey “Sonny” Fisher was a native of Farmville, where he was a leader of the Pitt County Improvement Association (aka: the Farmville UKA Klavern). He also served as the Grand Klokkard (state lecturer) for the North Carolina Realm of the UKA. As such, he was one of a number of North Carolina Klan leaders subpoenaed to testify before HUAC. He duly appeared before the committee on October 22, 1965, where he was accompanied, as were most UKA witnesses, by Raleigh-based attorney Lester V. Chalmers, Jr. During his testimony, Fisher politely declined to answer any questions, nor produce any requested documents, citing his rights under the 5th, 1st, 4th,  and 14th amendments to the Constitution – as did most UKA witnesses – after which Fisher was excused . (Activities of Ku Klux Klan in the U.S., pt. 1, p. 1869-1876)

The testimony of the other witness from Pitt County, George Leonard Williams, was much more informative in nature. A former Klansman and resident of Greenville, Williams appeared before HUAC on January 28, 1966. In his testimony, Williams recounted that he had joined the Greenville Klavern (Benevolent Association No. 53) on July 28, 1965, In October, he switched to the Pactolus Klavern (Pactolus Hunting Club), where he would remain as a member until he left the Klan in mid-November 1965. Williams testified that he was motivated to join the Klan by its strident opposition to civil rights and racial integration. On August 31, 1965, he was shot and wounded in an altercation with an African-American man in Plymouth, NC, where he was one of nearly 1,000 UKA members, nearly all from outside Plymouth, who made a show of force in response to local civil rights demonstrations. This incident, along with a violent incident between members of the Greenville and Pactolus Klaverns and perceived financial irregularities, persuaded Williams to leave the Klan. Subsequent threats made against him by the Klan motivated him to appear before HUAC.

Williams testified that the Klan had about 40 active members in the Greenville area, with about 340 listed on the books. He explained this discrepancy by stating that “Most of the Klan, the people that get into the Klan go and join, and after they get in and find out what they are in, they don’t never come back no more.” (Activities of Ku Klux Klan in the U.S., pt. 3, p. 2891) According to his account, the Pactolus Klavern itself split off from the UKA to join a local Klan offshoot.

While HUAC conducted a number of investigations pertaining to North Carolina, even holding hearings in Charlotte in 1956 on the CPUSA presence in the state, the 1965-66 Klan investigation is the only one in the committee’s history that directly involved Greenville and Pitt County.

The author gratefully acknowledges the cooperation of Matt Reynolds, Digital Collections Librarian, with the research for this post.

 

CWIS Sources:

Activities of Ku Klux Klan Organizations in the United States. Hearings Before the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Eighty-Ninth Congress, First (-Second) Session. 1965-66, 5 pts. + index  (Joyner Docs CWIS: Y 4: Un 1/2: K 95; additional circulating copy in Joyner Docs Stacks: Y 4: Un 1/2: K 95)

The Present-Day Ku Klux Klan Movement. Report by the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Ninetieth Congress, First Session. December 11, 1967. (Joyner Docs CWIS: Y 1.1/7: 90-377; additional circulating copy in Joyner NC Stacks: HS2330 .K63 A56. Also available in U.S. Congressional Serial Set; ECU users only)

 

Additional Sources:

Alsop, Stewart. “Portrait of a Klansman.” Saturday Evening Post, 239, 8 (April 9, 1966): 23-27.

Cunningham, David. Klansville USA: The Rise and Fall of the Civil Rights-Era Ku Klux Klan. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. (Joyner NC Stacks HS2330 .K63 C75 2013)

Goodman, Walter. The Committee: The Extraordinary Career of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1968. (Joyner Stacks E743.5 .G64)

Oakley, Christopher Arris, Matthew Reynolds and Dale Sauter. Greenville in the 20th Century. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 2013. (Joyner Special Collections Ref. F264.G8 O25 2013)

 

 

 

 

Sep 052013
 
MartinandMitchell

NSA defectors William H. Martin and Bernon F. Mitchell at the Moscow press conference announcing their defection, July 1, 1960. Image via National Security Agency Cryptologic Heritage website: http://www.nsa.gov/about/cryptologic_heritage/60th/1960s/index.shtml#photos 

It’s a story filled with uncanny parallels that could be plucked directly from today’s headlines: young men working with the National Security Agency (NSA) who grow disillusioned by what they find, abscond with classified information, and end up seeking asylum in Moscow. Fifty-three years before Edward Snowden left his job as a consultant with the NSA and ultimately pursued refuge in Moscow, a pair of disillusioned NSA employees, William H. Martin and Bernon F. Mitchell, defected to the Soviet Union.

Martin and Mitchell started with the NSA in 1957. According to subsequent government investigations, both may have secretly joined the Communist Party and likely visited Cuba in late 1959. According to authors Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, Mitchell visited the Soviet embassy in Mexico City in December 1959 and asked for political asylum. Despite KGB efforts to persuade him to stay in NSA and serve as an agent, he and Martin insisted that they preferred to defect. On June 25, 1960, Martin and Mitchell boarded a flight from Washington for Mexico City. From there, they traveled subsequently to Cuba and then the Soviet Union. On August 1, the Department of Defense announced that Martin and Mitchell were missing, later acknowledging on August 5 that it was likely that the two men had fled to the Eastern Bloc. On August 11, 1960, William H. Martin and Bernon F. Mitchell were officially granted asylum in the USSR and each awarded a monthly allowance 0f 500 rubles, roughly equal to their NSA salaries.

On September 6, 1960, Martin and Mitchell held a press conference in Moscow to announce their defections. Martin explained their decision as follows:

We were employees of the highly secret National Security Agency, which gathers communications intelligence from almost all nations of the world for use by the U.S. Government. However, the simple act that the U.S. Government is engaged in delving into the secrets of other nations had little or nothing to do with our decision to defect. Our main dissatisfaction concerns some of the practices the United States uses in gathering intelligence information. We were worried about the U.S. policy of deliberately violating the airspace of other nations and the U.S. Government’s practice of lying about such violations in a manner intended to mislead public opinion. Furthermore, we were disenchanted by the U.S. Government’s practice of intercepting and deciphering the secret communications of its own allies. Finally, we objected to the fact that the U.S. Government was willing to go so far as to recruit agents from among the personnel of its allies. (NSA/CSS 60th Anniversary Timeline)

The very next day, September 7, 1960, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) would launch an investigation of the Martin-Mitchell defections and their potential impact on American national security. HUAC’s investigation would last 13 months, using over 2,000 hours of staff work and producing 16 executive-session (closed to the public) hearings, featuring testimony from 34 current or former NSA employees.

In August 1962, HUAC would release a 23 page report summarizing its findings. Among other things, the report would question the validity of the polygraph as a tool for detecting possible security risks. In a reflection of then prevailing attitudes toward homosexuality, the document also made much of allegations that Martin and Mitchell were gay, citing this as a factor in their defection. Journalist Rick Anderson, however, has shown that Martin and Mitchell were not, in fact, gay.

An NSA historical overview of the case noted that “It is believed that there was very little damage” done to U.S. intelligence efforts as a result of the defection. (“Betrayers of the Trust”) This is confirmed by Andrew and Mitrokhin, who write that the KGB was “disappointed” in the quality of the information supplied by Martin and Mitchell. (Andrew & Mitrokhin, The Sword and the Shield, p. 179) The feeling was soon to be mutual. Despite their relatively generous stipends and both marrying Soviet women, Martin and Mitchell quickly became disillusioned by the realities of life in the USSR. Neither man ever returned to the United States: Martin dying in Mexico in 1987 and Mitchell in Russia in 2001.

 

Original Sources:

National Security Agency: NSA/CSS 60th Anniversary Timeline – 1960s (includes the transcript and audio of Martin and Mitchell’s Moscow press conference)

Security Practices in the National Security Agency (Defection of Bernon F. Mitchell and William H. Martin). Report by the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Eighty-Seventh Congress, Second Session. August 13, 1962. (Not yet part of CWIS Collection: Available in ProQuest Congressional; ECU users only)

 

Additional Sources:

Anderson, Rick. ‘Before Edward Snowden: “Sexual deviates” and the NSA‘. Salon, July 1, 2013.

Andrew, Christopher and Vasili Mitrokhin. The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB. New York: Basic Books, 1999. (Joyner Stacks UB251.S65 A63 1999)

Betrayers of the Trust.” National Security Agency Cryptologic Almanac, May-June 2002.

 

Sep 012013
 

My Joyner Library colleague Joseph Thomas has written a very good overview of the CWIS Collection for the Spring/Summer 2013 issue of North Carolina Libraries.  The article is available in PDF format from the NCL website. Please give it a read:

Lagniappe: Joyner Library’s Cold War and Internal Security Collection

 

Jun 242013
 

Dickstein

(Rep. Samuel Dickstein (D-NY), second from right, March 1937. Source: Harris & Ewing Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/hec2009009088/)

When examining the history of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), one soon discovers an amazing irony. While HUAC spent over three decades developing a reputation as a right-wing scourge of communists real or alleged, the congressman who first conceived the idea of a committee to investigate “un-American activities” was a New Deal liberal worried about the threat of subversion posed by domestic Nazis and fascists. Even more incredibly, that same congressman, dubbed by HUAC scholar Walter Goodman as the “Father of the Committee”, actually spent several years as a paid agent of the Soviet Union.

Born in 1885, Rep. Samuel Dickstein (D-NY) emigrated to the U.S. as a small child and grew up in New York City. He went to law school and became involved in the Democratic Party, serving in various state offices before winning election to Congress in 1922. Dickstein was alarmed by the Nazi seizure of power in Germany in 1933 and by the often well-publicized activities of Nazi sympathizers and native fascists in the United States. At his urging, on March 20, 1934 the House of Representatives passed House Resolution 198 (H. Res. 73-2), which created a special committee to investigate:

  1. “The extent, character, and objects of Nazi propaganda activities” in the U.S.

  2. “The diffusion within the United States of subversive propaganda that is instigated from foreign countries and attacks the principle of the form of government as guaranteed by our Constitution”

  3. “All other questions in relation thereto” (78 CR 4934)

The House Special Committee on Un-American Activities, widely considered the forerunner to HUAC, contained seven members. Rep. John McCormack (D-MA) served as Chair with Dickstein as Vice-Chair. The McCormick-Dickstein committee, as it was popularly known, primarily investigated the activities of far-right extremists such as the German-American Bund and the Silver Legion of America, but did also investigate the Communist Party (CPUSA) as well.

The McCormick-Dickstein Committee published its report on February 15, 1935. This report included the following summation of the 1930s countersubversive worldview:

“To the true and real American, communism, naziism (sic.), and fascism are all equally dangerous, equally alien and equally unacceptable to American institutions.” (Investigation, p.23)

The Special Committee on Un-American Activities disbanded after releasing its report. Dickstein, however, continued his campaign against alleged Nazi and fascist subversion. In early 1937, he called for the creation of a new committee on un-American activities, with a charge even more sweeping than that given to the 1934-35 version. In his ever more strident warnings about the threat posed by the German-American Bund and other far-right groups, Dickstein became one of the most prominent voices of what historian Leo Ribuffo has called the “Brown Scare”: an exaggerated fear of the threat posed by domestic Nazis and fascists in response to the alarming rise of the Third Reich in Europe and the often repellent activities of its supporters in the U.S.

By this time, Dickstein had adopted the practice of denouncing by name individuals, businesses and organizations he suspected of Nazi or fascist sympathies in speeches on the floor of Congress. When six individuals identified by Dickstein as Bund members submitted signed affidavits denying the charge, Dickstein responded on the House floor on December 21, 1937 as follows:

I have always protected character and reputation in respect to any name I have inserted in the RECORD, and I say to the membership of the House that if out of these hundreds of names that I have buttonholed as Fascists and Nazis, or whatever I have called them, only six filed a protest, I think I have done a pretty good job. (82 CR 2031)

Dickstein’s desire to see a new Special Committee on Un-American Activities came to fruition on May 26, 1938, when the House passed House Res. 282, creating the committee that would become HUAC and continue in several incarnations until 1975. The resolution was sponsored by Rep. Martin Dies (D-TX), with Dickstein’s full support and cooperation. However, Dies was appointed Chair while Dickstein was left off the committee altogether. The Dies Committee would direct the majority of its investigative focus on the CPUSA and New Deal, much to Dickstein’s chagrin. As Goodman memorably phrased it, Dickstein was “relentless” in his efforts “from 1933 to 1938” to bring HUAC into being, only to find that he “had the rest of his life to regret” his efforts.

The story of Samuel Dickstein and the origins of HUAC took an even more bizarre turn in 1999, when Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev released their book The Haunted Wood. Based on research in KGB archives, Weinstein and Vassiliev revealed that Dickstein maintained a covert relationship with the NKVD (Soviet secret police: predecessor of the KGB) from 1937-1940. Motivated primarily by financial incentives, Dickstein was given the code name “Crook” by the NKVD and was paid approximated $12,000 during this period. The Soviets severed the relationship with Dickstein in 1940, unhappy that they were not getting their money’s worth. (Weinstein & Vassiliev, The Haunted Wood, Chapter 7)

This leaves us with the ultimate irony that the man who did more than any other to bring the House Un-American Activities Committee into being was on the payroll of Soviet intelligence while doing so.

After resigning from Congress in 1945, Dickstein became a justice of the New York State Supreme Court, serving there until his death in 1954.

 

Original Sources:

Investigation of Nazi and Other Propaganda, House Report No. 153, 74th Congress (74-1), Serial Set 9890 (1935)  (Available in U.S. Congressional Serial Set; ECU users only)

Investigation of Nazi Propaganda Activities and Investigation of Certain Other Propaganda Activities. Public Hearings Before the Special Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Seventy-Third Congress, Second Session. 1934-35, 8. v.  (Joyner Docs CWIS: Y 4: Un 1: N 23)

78 Cong. Rec. 4934 (1934) (Available in ProQuest Congressional; ECU users only)

82 Cong. Rec. 2031 (1937) (Available in ProQuest Congressional; ECU users only)

 

Additional Sources:

Biographical Directory of the United States Congress: Dickstein, Samuel, (1885 – 1954)

Goodman, Walter. The Committee: The Extraordinary Career of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1968. (Joyner Stacks E743.5 .G64)

Ribuffo, Leo P. The Old Christian Right: The Protestant Far Right from the Great Depression to the Cold War . Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1983. (Joyner Stacks E806 .R47 1983)

Weinstein, Allen and Alexander Vassiliev. The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America–The Stalin Era. New York: Random House, 1999. (Joyner Stacks UB271.R9 W45 1999)

 

Apr 212013
 

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/cph/3g00000/3g06000/3g06100/3g06144r.jpg

(front cover of July 1951 comic book featuring Jackie Robinson. Source: Library of Congress American Memory Collections: Baseball and Jackie Robinson: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/robinson/)

In 1947, Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson would make American history as the first African-American to officially play Major League Baseball in the 20th Century. On July 18 1949, his status as a hero would see Jackie Robinson summoned to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).

HUAC was holding hearings on the topic of “Communist infiltration of minority groups”. In April 1949, the radical African-American singer and actor Paul Robeson had allegedly stated that African-Americans would be reluctant to fight on behalf of the USA against the USSR. Robinson was invited by the committee as a “friendly” witness to rebut Robeson’s claims.

Robinson began his testimony by stating that “it isn’t exactly pleasant to get involved in a political dispute”, but that he decided ultimately to testify out of “a sense of responsibility.” While noting that “I don’t pretend to be any expert on communism or any other kind of a political ‘ism.'” Robinson pointed out that he was “an expert at being a colored American, with 30 years of experience at it.” After reminding the committee that he was still one of only seven African-Americans in Major League Baseball (out of 400 players), Robinson made a powerful statement about both African-Americans’ desire for civil rights and the tendency fostered by HUAC to see all social protest as a result of conspiratorial subversion:

“The white public should start toward real understanding by appreciating that every single Negro who is worth his salt is going to resent any kind of slurs and discrimination because of his race, and he is going to use every bit of intelligence such as he has to stop it. This has got absolutely nothing to do with what Communists may or may not be trying to do. And white people must realize that the more a Negro hates communism because it opposes democracy, the more he is going to hate any other influence that kills off democracy in this country-and that goes for racial discrimination in the Army, and segregation on trains and buses, and job discrimination because of religious beliefs or color or place of birth.

And one other thing the American public ought to understand, if we are to make progress in this matter: The fact that it is a Communist who denounces injustice in the courts, police brutality, and lynching when it happens doesn’t change the truth of his charges. Just because Communists kick up a big fuss over racial discrimination when it suits their purposes, a lot of people try to pretend that the whole issue is a creation of Communist imagination.

But they are not fooling anyone with this kind of pretense, and talk about “Communists stirring up Negroes to protest” only makes present misunderstanding worse than ever. Negroes were stirred up long before there was a Communist Party, and they’ll stay stirred up long after the party has disappeared-unless Jim Crow has disappeared by then as well.”

Source: Hearings Regarding Communist Infiltration of Minority Groups–Part 1, Hearings Before the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Eighty First Congress, First Session. 1949, p. 479-83  (Joyner Docs CWIS: Y 4: Un 1/2: C 73/11/pt.1)

Additional Federal Information Sources on Jackie Robinson:

 

Apr 212013
 

This blog is designed to promote J.Y. Joyner Library’s Cold War and Internal Security Collection by highlighting specific items from the collection and by discussing  the broader historical context behind the collection and its documents. Future posts will focus on topics such as the following:

  • Historically well known hearings and documents, such as Hiss v. Chambers, the Army-McCarthy hearings, the “Hollywood Ten”, etc.
  • Documents concerning specific individuals, such as Linus Pauling, Paul Robeson, etc.
  • Unique and interesting documents that provide insights into the nature of congressional countersubversion investigations.
  • Documents discussing specific organizations, such as the Communist Party USA (CPUSA), Ku Klux Klan, Black Panthers, German-American Bund, etc.
  • Documents on a specific topic: investigations of the motion picture industry, the “Brown Scare”, labor unions, the internment of Japanese-Americans, etc.
  • North Carolina specific-topics: the “Silver Legion of America”, the CPUSA in North Carolina, the Klan in North Carolina, etc.

Each post will refer to relevant documents available in the CWIS Collection, as well as other topical materials available online or elsewhere in Joyner Library. For basic information about the CWIS Collection and how to use it, please see our CWIS LibGuide.

Please contact me with any questions or comments

David Durant
Federal Documents & Social Sciences Librarian
J.Y. Joyner Library

Apr 082013
 

http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/resources/graphic/large/Welch_McCarthy.jpg

(Senator Joseph McCarthy during the famous Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954. Attorney Joseph Welch, who famously asked McCarthy “Have you no sense of decency, sir”, looks chagrined in the left foreground. Image via Senate historical website: http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/resources/graphic/large/Welch_McCarthy.jpg )

 

Joyner Library’s Federal Documents Collection is pleased to announce the creation of the Cold War and Internal Security (CWIS) Collection. The CWIS Collection includes approximately 1,000 volumes of congressional hearings, committee prints and committee reports from the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), its successor the House Committee on Internal Security (HCIS), the Senate Government Operations Committee’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (SPSI), and the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Internal Security (SISS), covering the years 1934-1977. The contents of the collection cover congressional investigations of organizations deemed “subversive” or “un-American”, primarily the Communist Party USA and its allies. Other subjects of investigation include the New Left, the Ku Klux Klan, the Black Panthers, 1930s and 40s pro-Nazi organizations and even the World War II internment of Japanese-Americans. These items serve as valuable primary sources on topics such as American political culture during the Depression, World War II and the Cold War, the history of American Communism and the other investigated movements, the fate of civil liberties during a period of perceived external threat, and the evolution of attitudes toward political movements deemed extreme or “un-American”.

The CWIS Collection is housed in the basement of Joyner Library and is intended as an archival resource. The collection, however, is open stack and can be used in the building by any interested patrons. Documents from the CWIS Collection cannot be checked out, but secondary copies of many of these volumes are available in the regular Documents Stacks and can be checked out. When complete, the CWIS Collection will contain at least one copy of every document published by each of the four committees within its scope, as well as select relevant documents from other congressional bodies.

Please contact David Durant, Federal Documents & Social Sciences Collection, for any questions about the CWIS Collection and how to use it: durantd@ecu.edu

The CWIS Collection is part of the Association of Southeast Regional Libraries’ Collaborative Federal Depository Program.

 Posted by at 6:19 pm