House Un-American Activities Committee

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 Dies, 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 Chambers made sensational accusations of Soviet espionage against former State Dept. official Alger Hiss; those hearings kept the committee in the headlines and provided the first national exposure for committee member Richard Nixon. 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 McCarthy 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).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Nightmare in Red: The McCarthy Era in Perspective
Richard M. Fried.
Oxford University Press, 1990
The Great "Red Menace": United States Prosecution of American Communists, 1947-1952
Peter L. Steinberg.
Greenwood Press, 1984
Librarian’s tip: Chap. III "The Politics of Anticommunism"
Un-American Activities: The Trials of William Remington
Gary May.
Oxford University Press, 1994
American Science in An Age of Anxiety: Scientists, Anticommunism, and the Cold War
Jessica Wang.
University of North Carolina Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Individual Encounters II Scientists and HUAC, 1946-1948"
Still Seeing Red: How the Cold War Shapes the New American Politics
John Kenneth White.
Westview Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "1947-1950: The New Politics of Old Fears"
The Boss: J. Edgar Hoover and the Great American Inquisition
Athan G. Theoharis; John Stuart Cox.
Temple University Press, 1988
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of HUAC begins on p. 215
Crisis on the Left: Cold War Politics and American Liberals, 1947-1954
Mary Sperling McAuliffe.
University of Massachusetts Press, 1978
McCarthyism: The Great American Red Scare: A Documentary History
Albert Fried.
Oxford University Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "HUAC Gets Under Way, January, 1945" and Chap. 10 "Stander Confounds HUAC, May 6, 1953"
The Politics of Fear: Joseph R. McCarthy and the Senate
Robert Griffith.
University of Massachusetts Press, 1987 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of HUAC begins on p. 41
Red Scare: Memories of the American Inquisition : An Oral History
Griffin Fariello.
W. W. Norton, 1995
Librarian’s tip: "The Fight Against HUAC" begins on p. 521
American Labor and the Cold War: Grassroots Politics and Postwar Political Culture
Robert W. Cherny; William Issel; Kieran Walsh Taylor.
Rutgers University Press, 2004
Librarian’s tip: "Memories of the Red Decade: HUACInvestigations in Maryland" begins on p. 177
Understanding The Crucible: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents
Claudia Durst Johnson; Vernon E. Johnson.
Greenwood Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Witch-Hunts in the 1950s"
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