Priests of our democracy : the Supreme Court, academic freedom, and the anti-communist purge

Heins, Marjorie
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  • Creator Marjorie Heins
  • Format Books
  • Publication New York : New York University Press, [2013] ©2013
  • Physical Details
    • x, 363 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
  • ISBNs 0814790518, 9780814790519, 0814744648, 9780814744642, 0814770266, 9780814770269, 0814790526, 9780814790526
  • OCLC ocn794040387


  • "In the early 1950s, New York City's teachers and professors became the targets of massive investigations into their political beliefs and associations. Those who refused to cooperate in the questioning were fired. Some had undoubtedly been communists, and the Communist Party-USA certainly made its share of mistakes, but there was never evidence that the accused teachers had abused their trust. Some were among the most brilliant, popular, and dedicated educators in the city. Priests of Our Democracy tells of the teachers and professors who resisted the witch hunt, those who collaborated, and those whose battles led to landmark Supreme Court decisions. It traces the political fortunes of academic freedom beginning in the late 19th century, both on campus and in the courts. Combining political and legal history with wrenching personal stories, the book details how the anti-communist excesses of the 1950s inspired the Supreme Court to recognize the vital role of teachers and professors in American democracy. The crushing of dissent in the 1950s impoverished political discourse in ways that are still being felt, and First Amendment academic freedom, a product of that period, is in peril today. In compelling terms, this book shows why the issue should matter to every American"--Provided by publisher.


  • Includes bibliographical references (pages 327-341) and index.


  • "Sifting and winnowing" -- Radicalism and reaction in the 1930s -- Rapp-Coudert -- The Board of Education and the Feinberg Law -- Insubordination and "conduct unbecoming" -- The Vinson Court -- The McCarran committee and the City colleges -- "The laughing-stock of Europe" -- The moral dilemma: naming names -- Red Monday and beyond -- The road to Keyishian -- "A pall of orthodoxy over the classroom" -- "A generation stopped in Its tracks" -- Academic freedom after Keyishian -- September 11 and beyond
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