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 ?
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.
In an attempt to vindicate the McCarthy attacks half a century ago, Ronald (Hudson Institute) and writer Allis describe the nefarious influence of the Communist Party in the film industry, and explain that all the sensible people had long since become disillusioned with the left by the time the House Unamerican Activities Committee came to town.
Yet Tsymbal finds no irony in the fact that Boris' Oscar was snagged for "On the Waterfront," seen by many as an apologia for the House UnAmerican Activities Committee.
Though himself an excellent economist, more than half of Brady's study is concerned with the "non-economic" measures of the Nazis, under the heading "The Coordination of the Spirit" A year after its publication Brady was ordered to appear before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, which classified him as "prematurely anti-fascist." In some sense, that tells it all.
Philip Randolph's split with the National Negro Congress because of reputed Communist domination; the 1944 reorganization of the Communist Party into the Communist Political Association, a move frequently viewed as a "softpedaling" of racial issues by American Communists in an attempt to defend the Soviet Union; and the emergence during and after World War II of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee and McCarthyism, whose dragnet allegedly silenced or destroyed many black and white radicals, such as Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson, and countless others.(1)
Alongside are grouped photos of Brecht himself appearing before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, and several dozen reproductions of those masterpieces of Expressionist painting that Hitler labeled "degenerate." A projector in midlobby casts upon a small screen images of one such "degenerate" artist being grilled and pilloried in a Third Reich court of law.
Political innocence produces "treason." The documents in question, however, have been out in the open since Whittaker Chambers produced the typed pages for Hiss's lawyers and placed the microfilm in a pumpkin on his Maryland farm just before leading House UnAmerican Activities Committee investigatots to it.