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Thu, 05.26.1938

The House Un-American Committee is Established

Paul Robeson testifying

*On this date in 1938, The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was formed.  The HUAC was created to investigate alleged disloyalty and subversive activities on the part of America’s private citizens, public employees, and those organizations suspected of having Communist ties.  

The House Committee on Un-American Activities was established as a special investigating committee, reorganized from its previous incarnations as the Fish Committee and the McCormack-Dickstein Committee, to investigate alleged disloyalty and subversive activities on the part of private citizens, public employees, and those organizations suspected of having communist or fascist ties; however, it concentrated its efforts on communists.  

It was chaired by Martin Dies Jr. (D-Tex.), and therefore known as the Dies Committee. Its records are held by the National Archives and Records Administration as records related to HUAC.  In 1938, Hallie Flanagan, the head of the Federal Theatre Project, was subpoenaed to appear before the committee to answer the charge the project was overrun with communists.  

Blacklisted African Americans included:  Paul RobesonCanada LeeLena HorneLangston HughesRichard WrightHazel Scott, Artie Shaw, Dean DixonClifford Durr, Shirley GrahamJosh WhiteHilda SimmsOssie DavisRuby Dee, and others were outlawed by the HUAC.  In 1939, the committee investigated leaders of the American Youth Congress, a Communist International affiliate organization.  The committee also put together an argument for the internment of Japanese Americans known as the "Yellow Report". Organized in response to rumors of Japanese Americans being coddled by the War Relocation Authority (WRA) and news that some former inmates would be allowed to leave camp and Nisei soldiers to return to the West Coast, the committee investigated charges of fifth column activity in the camps.

A number of anti-WRA arguments were presented in subsequent hearings, but Director Dillon Myer debunked the more inflammatory claims. The investigation was presented to the 77th Congress and alleged that certain cultural traits Japanese loyalty to the Emperor, the number of Japanese fishermen in the US, and the Buddhist faith – were evidence for Japanese espionage. With the exception of Rep. Herman Eberharter (D-Pa.), the members of the committee seemed to support internment, and its recommendations to expedite the impending segregation of "troublemakers", establish a system to investigate applicants for leave clearance, and step up Americanization and assimilation efforts largely coincided with WRA goals.  In 1946, the committee considered opening investigations into the Ku Klux Klan, but decided against doing so, prompting white supremacist committee member John E. Rankin (D-Miss.) to remark, "After all, the KKK is an old American institution."  

Instead of the Klan, HUAC concentrated on investigating the possibility that the American Communist Party had infiltrated the Works Progress Administration, including the Federal Theatre Project and the Federal Writers' Project. Twenty years later, in 1965–1966, however, the committee did conduct an investigation into Klan activities under chairman Edwin Willis (D-La.). From 1969 onwards, the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HCUA) was known as the House Committee on Internal Security. It was an investigative committee of the United States House of Representatives.   The committee's anti-communist investigations are often compared with those of Joseph McCarthy who, as a U.S. Senator, had no direct involvement with this House committee.  When the House abolished the committee in 1975, its functions were transferred to the House Judiciary Committee.  

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