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Petition from the residents of Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the removal of other Hisses from government positions, ca. 1950

Alger Hiss’s conviction in 1950 for perjury, one of the few substantiated House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) charges, convinced some that HUAC was performing a valuable service to the nation by uncovering communist espionage. HUAC’s work also fueled a Red Scare that Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin would exploit in his brazen efforts to expose communists in the government in the 1950s.

Carl Albert Center Congressional Archives, University of Oklahoma

Petition from the residents of Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the removal of other Hisses from government positions, ca. 1950

The House Un-American Activities Committee

Both world wars raised concerns in Congress about subversive threats to the nation. As tensions rose between the United States and the Soviet Union following World War II, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) conducted prominent hearings to investigate allegations that communists disloyal to the United States had infiltrated the government, the entertainment industry, and other organizations. While critics complained that HUAC’s investigations trampled on citizens’ rights, supporters believed the committee’s actions were justified, given threats to national security at the time.

I am not and never have been a member of the Communist Party.

Alger Hiss, Statement to the House Un-American Activities Committee, August 5, 1948