Kevin M. Hymel

The records of the House Unamerican Activities Committee are kept in the National Archives in Washington, DC. The collection of “Unamericans” is stored in pull-out drawers, filling an entire wall in the building’s Legislative Archives. Each drawer, about three square feet, contains hundreds of index cards, each a record of a person and their “crimes,” from the 1930s to the 1960s.

Some of the names are surprising. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Edward R. Murrow are on file. Ike for attending a VE Day celebration in Moscow at the end of World War II, and Murrow for his relations with the American-Russian Institute before the war.

There are also cards on post-World War II personalities. Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon are listed for performing at Vietnam War protest concerts. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., has an inch-deep stack of index cards for every civil rights event he led or attended.

The HUAC files are a revealing look into the anxiety of America’s Cold War past. Most of the files are open to the public and worth a look just to see which Americans made the list.