Board of Higher Education of the City of New York Academic Freedom Case Files
Language of Materials
This collection consists primarily of transcripts and testimony from hearings and investigations conducted by the State Board of Higher Education of the City of New York. The materials focus on alleged Communist Party activities of eight faculty members at City College of New York, Hunter College and Queens College.
The following chronology provides a backdrop for the Board of Higher Education of the City of New York cases included within this collection:
The collection is a single series. Folders are arranged alphabetically (case folders alphabetized by last name of defendant; others by topic).
Scope and Content Note
This collection is composed primarily of transcripts and testimonies from hearings and investigations concerning the alleged Communist Party membership or associations of eight faculty members of New York City public universities. Conducted by the Board of Higher Education of the City of New York, or its representatives, the hearings were held during two time periods: 1941 and 1953-1955.
Hearings held in 1941 involved four members of the faculty of the City College of New York: Saul Bernstein, Biology instructor; Arthur R. Braunlich, Jr., tutor of English; Seymour A. Copstein, also an English tutor; and Philip S. Foner, History instructor. Each had previously appeared before the Joint Legislative Committee on the State Education System (Rapp-Coudert Committee) and each was charged with Party membership, committing perjury before Rapp-Coudert and failure to fully cooperate with the investigations.
The second group of transcripts and testimonies (1953-1955) involve four more faculty members: Charles W. Hughes, associate professor in the Department of Music at Hunter College; V. Jerauld McGill, associate professor in the Department of Psychology and Philosophy at Hunter; Louis Weisner, associate professor of Mathematics at Hunter; and Dudley David Straus, English instructor at Queens College. McGill had previously appeared before Rapp-Coudert and was charged with giving false testimony, witholding information from the Board's Special Committee and colluding with Charles Hughes and Louis Weisner to refuse to answer certain questions; i.e., to inform on others. Hughes and Weisner were accused similarly (with the exception of the Rapp-Coudert perjury charge). Dudley David Straus was also charged with Communist Party membership.
In addition to the transcripts and testimonies, there are a number of related documents including a copy of the Board's policy statement, "The Loyalty Investigation of our Municipal Colleges"; court documents from several related cases involving city secondary school teachers; an analysis and appraisal of The Report of the Rapp-Coudert Committee by the New York City Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild; and a critique of the judicial conduct of Judge Harold R. Medina in the 1949 Smith Act trial of Eugene Dennis and others.
Conditions Governing Access
Materials are open without restrictions.
Conditions Governing Use
Materials in this collection, which were created by the Board of Higher Education of the City of New York in 1941-1956, are in the public domain. Users need not secure permission from the Tamiment library to publish or reproduce these materials. Copyright (and related rights to publicity and privacy) to the report of the Rapp-Coudert Committee created by the National Lawyers Guild was not transferred to New York University. Permission to use materials must be secured from the copyright holder.
Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date; Collection name; Collection number; box number; folder number;
Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012, New York University Libraries.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Provenance unknown. The accession number associated with this collection is 1999.021.