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 ?
After discussing various incidents in American history where individuals were compelled to confess to what was regarded as heresy, to reveal their beliefs or associations, or to participate in ritualistic affirmation of allegiance (with particular attention to the mid-twentieth century hearings of the House Unamerican Activities Committee and the McCarthy investigations, and the Barnette Pledge of Allegiance case) the author concludes that even though current public opinion generally condemns these incidents and regards them as belonging to a surpassed era, our legal protections against these compulsions are no greater than existed before the 1944 Barnette decision.
Joseph McCarthy and his allies on the House UnAmerican Activities Committee soon learned the art of micromanagement in the pursuit of Communist sympathizers in the executive branch.
McCarthy and the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. A populist needs an enemy, someone to blame for the winds of change.
Her second production was a reading of Bertolt Brecht: In Dark Times, an adaptation by Doug Longworthy of Brecht's testimony before the House Unamerican Activities Committee juxtaposed with his poetry and songs.
In the meantime, fourteen of their leaders were subpoenaed by the House UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC) for Communist infiltration of the peace movement; but through their spirited and brave performances on the witness stand, WSP emerged victorious.