Described variously as A Sinister Circus Atmosphere, the House Un-American Activities Committee got underway in Washington. Set out to prove allegations that Hollywood was a veritable cesspool of Communist sympathizers, all bent on distorting messages and brainwashing America into subversive acts, the Committee subpoenaed a wide array of Hollywood notables; screenwriters, stars, directors and Studio Heads to testify, answer questions and name names.
The Circus atmosphere descended on Capitol Hill, as onlookers, government employees and aides to Senators clamored for autographs and pictures with perplexed, but obliging Stars. But beyond the seeming innocence of the theatrics, the sinister atmosphere enveloped the chambers, as hours of testimony and brow-beating wound up yielding virtually nothing in two weeks. Innuendos and false accusations did the damage no outright condemnation could do – cast an aura of doubt and fear and subsequently ruined the careers of many.
But this was only one episode of the goings-on in Washington this week, as reported by Cesar Searchinger for the Story Behind The Headlines, weekly radio series.
The other big news was the release of the President’s Report on Civil Rights. Entitled; To Secure These Rights, it was the result of a year-long study by The Presidents Committee on Civil Rights, a group of 15 prominent citizens headed by Charles E. Wilson, President of General Electric. The Committee uncovered many disturbing discoveries in the course of preparing the report. Even though some progress had been made in some areas of Civil Rights, it was woefully absent in most others. The numbers of disenfranchised was much greater than originally thought. The incidents of Lynchings was just as bad. Discrimination was just as prevalent as before the report was started – the discrimination was discovered to be more widespread, to include Religious groups, ethnic minorities and people of national origins as well as race. One of the suggestions the Committee made was a strengthening of our laws which included protections of safety and personal rights against Police brutality and the wholesale evacuations of people, as what happened to Japanese-Americans during World War 2. A strengthening of our Citizenship rights; the right of all people to vote, irrespective of race, color or national origin, including Blacks in the South, Native Americans in the West and people living in the District Of Columbia. The group also recommended groups aiming to influence public opinion to come out into the open and register themselves and where their money comes from. It also wanted Congress to clarify the loyalty obligation to Federal Employees.
So while the country was busy being distracted by the circus atmosphere of the HUAC Hearings, it was about to face a bigger issue; one of Civil Rights, and tackling the hard questions the Committee Report brought with it.
And that’s what people were thinking about, this November 2, 1947 – as reported by Cesar Searchinger and Story Behind The Headlines.