Copyright © 2012 Lisa Harbatkin
Call them investigations, to be as neutral as possible. Call them witch hunts or purges. Call them inquisitions. By whatever name, the mid-twentieth-century outbreaks of panic over the political affiliations and beliefs of teachers, social workers, and other civil servants were a slice of national history that is too little known to too many people less than a century after they took place.
Contemporary with the high-profile entertainment industry red hunts, what happened locally is far less known. Often aided by their undercover police and state troopers, and at times by the FBI, cities around the country conducted these probes, questioning the loyalty of mid-level government and private-sector employees and workers.
The focus here at Snoops & Secrets, and at our related web site Dreamers & Fighters (www.dreamersandfighters.com), is on the New York City Board of Education’s 1940s-1960s anti-communist investigations.
Much of the information posted here is sourced from archive files in New York and Washington, primarily New York City’s Municipal Archives, the National Archives (NARA), and the Tamiment Library and Wagner Labor Archives at New York University. Other information is from FBI files. Additional sources include newspaper coverage, books, and studies. Interviews conducted by Sophie-Louise Ullmann and Lori Styler, by Linda Cirino, and by Lisa Harbatkin with several of the teachers who were questioned and investigated, with their lawyers, and with others involved in the events covered add a personal connection as well as their personal experiences of the investigations.
This is, after all, a blog. So I’ve decided not to clutter up the posts with detailed footnotes or source references beyond sometimes specifying the archive, book, or news media and dates, where information was accessed. Readers who want details such as more specific archive locator information are invited to request them via the comments function.