House Un-American Activities Committee
(HUAC)
   HUAC had its origins in a House committee formed in 1934 by John W. McCormack, a Democrat from New York, and Samuel Dickstein, a Democrat from Massachusetts, to investigate the influence of Nazi propaganda in the United States. It was reestablished in 1938 by Martin Dies, a Republican from Texas, ostensibly to investigate Nazi influences and the role of the Ku Klux Klan. However, it was dominated by conservative opponents of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, some of whom were themselves Klan members or sympathizers, who, finding no evidence relating to the Ku Klux Klan, instead charged that federal agencies, particularly the Works Progress Administration and the Federal Theater Project, were dominated by communist sympathizers. Such charges helped contribute to the Republican Party’s resurgence in the 1938 midterm elections, and the charges reappeared after World War II. In 1946, HUAC became a permanent committee, and in 1947 it began to investigate communist influence in the film industry, issuing 43 subpoenas to a variety of people working in Hollywood. The subsequent Hollywood hearings resulted in the jailing of 10 screenwriters and directors, known as the Hollywood Ten, for contempt and led to a blacklist of more than 300 people in show business. During the course of the hearings, Whittaker Chambers named former State Department official Alger Hiss as a former Soviet agent. The investigation and trial resulted in Hiss being jailed for perjury, brought Richard M. Nixon, a committee member, to national attention, and contributed to the rise of McCarthyism. Later investigations into trade unions and atomic scientists did not attract as much interest, and in 1969 the committee was renamed the Committee on Internal Security. It was finally abolished in 1975.

Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . . 2015.

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