House Un-American Activities Committee

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House Un-American Activities Committee

(HUAC), a committee (1938–75) of the U.S. House of Representatives, created to investigate disloyalty and subversive organizations. Its first chairman, Martin DiesDies, Martin, Jr.
, 1901–72, American political leader, b. Colorado, Tex. A lawyer, he represented Texas as a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives (1931–45; 1951–59).
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, set the pattern for its anti-Communist investigations. The committee's methods included pressure on witnesses to name former associates, vague and sweeping accusations against individuals, and the assumption of an individual's guilt because of association with a suspect organization. Witnesses who refused to answer were cited for contempt of Congress. A highly publicized 1947 investigation of the entertainment industry led to prison sentences for contempt for a group of recalcitrant witnesses who became known as the Hollywood Ten. In 1948, Whittaker ChambersChambers, Whittaker,
1901–61, U.S. journalist and spy, b. Philadelphia. He joined the U.S. Communist party in 1925 and wrote for its newspaper before engaging (1935–38) in espionage for the USSR. He left the party in 1939 and began working for Time magazine.
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 made sensational accusations of Soviet espionage against former State Dept. official Alger HissHiss, Alger
, 1904–96, American public official, b. Baltimore. After serving (1929–30) as secretary to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Hiss practiced law in Boston and New York City.
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; those hearings kept the committee in the headlines and provided the first national exposure for committee member Richard NixonNixon, Richard Milhous,
1913–94, 37th President of the United States (1969–74), b. Yorba Linda, Calif. Political Career to 1968

A graduate of Whittier College and Duke law school, he practiced law in Whittier, Calif.
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. Critics of the committee contended that it disregarded the civil liberties of its witnesses and that it consistently failed to fulfill its primary purpose of recommending new legislation. After 1950, Sen. Joseph McCarthyMcCarthy, Joseph Raymond,
1908–57, U.S. senator from Wisconsin (1947–57), b. near Appleton, Wis. He practiced law in Wisconsin and became (1940) a circuit judge. He served with the U.S. marines in the Pacific in World War II, achieving the rank of captain.
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 borrowed many of the committee's tactics for his own Senate investigations. The committee (renamed the House Internal Security Committee in 1969) was abolished in 1975.


See study by W. Goodman (1968).

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House Un-American Activities Committee

conducted investigations to purge government of foreign influences. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 1641]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Ironically, the image today most often associated with this period is the congressional investigations of Hollywood that began before McCarthy came on the scene, when screenwriters, actors, directors, and producers were dragged before the House Un-American Activities Committee and asked to "name names" of colleagues who had Communist ties or sympathies.
As the Cold War, in general, and the spirit of intolerance epitomized by the inquiries of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and Senator Joseph McCarthy, in particular, began to grip national and domestic politics, the space for protest and dissent would become decidedly more cramped.
Unfairly labeled a Communist as many politically conscious and active entertainers were during the Red Scare, Lee's career was done irreparable damage by the House Un-American Activities Committee's (HUAC) blacklist and terror tactics of the anti-communist movement and McCarthyism.
With our songs of fellowship and international solidarity, the lefty, top-of-the-charts Weavers were fair game for the House Un-American Activities Committee and its minions.
For images and transcriptions of historic documents from various sites arranged in topical order from African Americans, to Amistad Civil Rights, to House Un-American Activities Committee, to Love Canal, and more, visit Federal Government Resources: Historic Documents at www.lib.umich.
World War I witnessed the Alien and Sedition Acts, World War II saw the internment of the Japanese, and the Cold War observed the House Un-American Activities Committee (in which even American icon President Abraham Lincoln is implicated, because he did not hesitate to suspend the constitutional protections of habeas corpus in order to protect against allegedly treasonous activity during the Civil War).
Miller grappled with the weightiest matters of social conscience in his plays," swooned our Paper of Record, "and in them often reflected or reinterpreted the stormy and very public elements of his own life--including a brief and rocky marriage to Marilyn Monroe and his staunch refusal to cooperate with the red-baiting House Un-American Activities Committee." You have to say this for the Times: it pushed all the buttons: Arthur Miller, Genius Playwright; Arthur Miller, Social Celebrity; Arthur Miller, Moral Paragon and Darling of the Left Establishment.
She did not need the added attention and "commy" labels during a mayoral administration framed by, what Thomas Kessner reminds us was, the era of the Cold War mentality, the fears that led to the excesses of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), of the new conservatism, and of the passing of insurgency politics.
Yet Kazan, unlike Miller, would be a cooperative witness before the House Un-American Activities Committee, and Kazan's movie On the Waterfront was a powerful answer to the criticism that Miller and those of his political persuasion directed against him and other informers.
Displaying naivete at the very least, she repeatedly referred to the work of the "House Un-American Activities Committee" or "HUAC." The committee's actual name was "House Committee on Un-American Activities." But the Communist press consistently referred to the committee as the "House Un-American Activities Committee" as opposed to a committee on "Un-American Activities" so as to suggest that the committee, and not the subject of its investigations, was Un-American.
The only real difference between McCarthyite repression of unsound artists and that in the Soviet Union, admittedly an important one, was that the House Un-American Activities Committee did not have the power to execute its victims, only to deprive them of their livelihood, and sometimes imprison them.
But in perhaps the most meaty and revealing excerpt, Ernest Demaio explains how General Electric (GE) used the Taft-Hartley Act and the House Un-American Activities Committee to oust the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers Union (UE) out of GE.