This chapter covers the first public hearings of the Rapp-Coudert investigation, held in December 1940 and directed by liberal Paul Windels, protégé of reformer and Fusion activist Judge Samuel Seabury. Though challenged by the teachers unions (Locals 5 and 537 of the American Federation of Teachers) and civil libertarians, Windels unfolded a sophisticated witch-hunt based on the investigative powers of the state legislature. Violating fundamental constitutional rights, including those protected by the First and Fifth Amendments, Windels forced teachers to lie about their political associations in order to avoid fingering friends and colleagues while under oath. Meanwhile, Windels built a case against the Communist party based on his and others misrepresentations—a “countersubversive” myth that teachers used their classrooms to propagandize for the party and to subvert American democracy
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