McCarthyism

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The Alien Registration Act passed by Congress on 29th June, 1940, made it illegal for anyone in the United States to advocate, abet, or teach the desirability of overthrowing the government. The law also required all alien residents in the United States over 14 years of age to file a comprehensive statement of their personal and occupational status and a record of their political beliefs. Within four months a total of 4,741,971 aliens had been registered. The main objective of the Alien Registration Act was to undermine the American Communist Party and other left-wing political groups in the United States. It was decided that the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), that had been set up by Congress under Martin Dies in 1938 to investigate people suspected of unpatriotic behavior, would be the best vehicle to discover if people were trying to overthrow the government. In 1947 the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), chaired by J. Parnell Thomas, began an investigation into the Hollywood Motion Picture Industry. The HUAC interviewed 41 people who were working in Hollywood. These people attended voluntarily and became known as "friendly witnesses". During their interviews they named nineteen people who they accused of holding left-wing views. One of those named, Bertolt Brecht, a playwright, gave evidence and then left for East Germany. Ten others: Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Albert Maltz, Adrian Scott, Samuel Ornitz,, Dalton Trumbo, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr., John Howard Lawson and Alvah Bessie refused to answer any questions. Known as the Hollywood Ten, they claimed that the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution gave them the right to do this. The House of Un-American Activities Committee and the courts during appeals disagreed and they all were found guilty of contempt of congress and each was sentenced to between six and twelve months in prison. Larry Parks was the only actor in the original nineteen people named. He was also the only person on the list who the average moviegoer would have known. Parks agreed to give evidence to the HUAC and admitted that he had joined the Communist Party in 1941 but left it four years later. When asked for the names of fellow members, Parks replied: "I would prefer, if you would allow me, not to mention other people's names. Don't present me with the choice of either being in contempt of this Committee and going to jail or forcing me to really crawl through the mud to be an informer.

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