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Investigation Files of the Rapp-Coudert Committee (New York State Legislature)

Call Number



1919-1953, inclusive
; 1939-1942, bulk


New York (State). Legislature. Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate the Educational System of the State of New York
New York State Archives (Role: Donor)


7.25 Linear Feet in 57 reels

Language of Materials

Materials are in English


The Rapp-Coudert Committee (New York State Joint Legislative Committee on the State Education System) was charged with investigating individuals and organizations with suspected radical ties in New York City public schools and colleges from 1940-1942. This collection consists of the Committee's investigation files including correspondence, interview notes, lists and hearing transcripts; minutes; and copies of Communist, anti-war and civil liberties publications collected by the Committee in the course of investigations. Many files contain extensive notes on individuals under investigation, and include documentation on other persons suspected of ties to Communism. (Note that Tamiment Library holds only a microfilm version of this collection - Film R-7860. The original documents are held by the New York State Archives.)

Historical/Biographical Note

The Joint Legislative Committee of the State Education System, chaired by Assemblyman Herbert A. Rapp, was created by concurrent resolution of the New York State Senate and Assembly on March 29, 1940. The Committee was given broad authority to investigate the administration and financing of education in the state, and to study "the extent, if any, to which subversive activities may have been permitted to exist in the schools and colleges of the public educational system of the City of New York" (1942 report). Because of the wide scope of its charge, a special subcommittee, chaired by Senator Frederick R. Coudert, was assigned to investigate whether left- and/or right-wing movements -- Communism, Fascism and Nazism -- had penetrated New York City public schools and colleges.

By the conclusion of its investigation, the "Rapp-Coudert Committee" had interviewed almost 700 people and interrogated some 500 witnesses in a series of open and closed hearings on the extent of "subversive activities" in New York City education, resulting in the removal of teachers, professors, and college administrators from their positions. At the City College of New York, the Rapp-Coudert investigations resulted in the termination of over fifty faculty and staff, including Professor Jack Foner, a historian who was accused of injecting left-wing thought into the classroom and devoting excessive attention to the importance of African Americans in the curriculum.

According to its final report, the Rapp-Coudert Committee found no significant body of evidence showing a Nazi or Fascist "conspiracy against the schools," but it did uncover substantial evidence on the part of the Communist Party to penetrate into the public school and higher education systems. In particular, the Committee identifed three organizations -- the Teachers Union, College Teachers Union and American Student Union -- through which the Communist Party was supposedly working (1942 report). The Rapp-Coudert Committee was disbanded in 1942, even though the Joint Legislative Committee on the State Education System, which developed a plan for school district reorganization across New York State, existed until 1947.

Source: New York State Archives finding aid for this collection.


The New York State Archives retained the original Case Number order established by the Rapp-Coudert Committee.

Scope and Content Note

This collection consists of investigation files generated by the Rapp-Coudert Committee as it probed suspected radical activities (mainly left-wing/Communist, some right-wing/Fascist and Nazi) in New York City public schools and colleges from 1940-1942. While the Committee cast its net broadly, the records reveal that it focused particular attention on New York City high schools, Brooklyn College, City College of New York and Hunter College. As it conducted investigations of students, faculty and administrators with suspected Communist or right-wing ties at these institutions, the Committee examined organizations such as the American Student Union, the Young Communist League, the Teachers Union and the College Teachers Union. It also devoted considerable attention to studying ethnic groups with ties to radical politics including German-Americans, Italian-Americans and Jewish-Americans, as well as foreign language teachers and others sympathetic to international causes (e.g., the labor movement.)

The bulk of the records include correspondence, interview notes, hearing transcripts, minutes, lists of various kinds, pamphlets, newspaper clippings and copies of publications compiled during the course of the investigations. Literature collected by the Committee ranges from flyers and student newspapers to leaflets and propaganda disseminated by the Communist Party. Themes such as Communism, anti-war sentiment and civil liberties dominate these publications. There are also references to the Spanish Civil War. Many files contain extensive Committee notes on individuals under investigation, and include witness testimony and notes on other persons with suspected ties to Communism. Notes are often annotated with page numbers, which in all likelihood correspond to the hearing transcripts where that information was captured. Much of the correspondence in this collection pertains to specific individuals of subversive activities or affiliations with left- or right-wing groups. Other letters to the Committee suggest witnesses for ongoing cases and provide "tips" on possible subversive behavior in New York City. Often, related documents such as newspaper clippings or other publications are attached to the letters.

Source: New York State Archives finding aid for this collection.

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Materials in this collection, which were created in 1919-1953, are in the public domain. Permission to publish or reproduce is not required.

Preferred Citation

Identification of item, date; Investigation Files of the Rapp-Coudert Committee (New York State Legislature); TAM 533; reel number; Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University. Any published work resulting from use of this material must properly credit the New York State Archives as the owner of the original material.

Existence and Location of Originals

Original material is located at the New York State Archives, Albany, NY.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Materials were loaned by the New York State Archives in 2009 for the purpose of producing a microfilm copy to add to the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive's permanent collection. The accession number associated with this collection is 2010.032

Custodial History

According to the Joint Legislative Committee's final report, all files of the Rapp-Coudert investigations were turned over to the Division of State Police on March 5, 1947. The State Police borrowed and re-filed materials from the Rapp-Coudert files while the records were in its custody. The Rapp-Coudert files were originally accessioned as part of New York State Archives' Series A0795, Non-criminal investigation case files of the State Police, and filled boxes 65-84 of that series. In March 2009, the records were accessioned as a separate series (L0260).

Source: New York State Archives finding aid for this collection.

Based on an agreement with the New York State Archives (March 23, 2009), Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Archives funded the production of a microfilm copy of this collection. The New York State Archives received both the master negative and one positive copy. Tamiment Library retained one copy. The accession number associated with this collection is 2010.032.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Researchers must use microfilm, the identifier is R-7860

Related Archival Materials

Many of Tamiment's archival collections contain materials associated with the Rapp-Coudert Committee. The following collections, in particular, concern individuals who are prominent within the Investigation Files: TAM 109, The Charles James Hendley Papers; TAM 179, The Morris Schappes Papers; TAM 254, The Henry Foner Papers.

The Reference Center for Marxist Studies Pamphlet Collection (PE043) contains two anti-committee pamphlets (Box 103, Folder 5):

Senator Coudert's Star Chamber: A Report on the Rapp-Coudert Committee: Private Hearings. The Committee for the Defense of Public Education, New York, 1941.

The Conspiracy Against the Schools. The Committee for the Defense of Public Education, New York. 1941.

The 1942 committee report referenced on the microfilm is available in the Tamiment Library:

Report of the Subcommittee of the Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Procedures and Methods of Allocating State Moneys for Public School Purposes and Subversive Activities

Call Number LB2826.N7 A6 1942

Other Finding Aids

The finding aid produced by the New York State Archives is available via the URL below:;query=;brand=default

Collection processed by

Tamiment Staff

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-20 16:35:38 -0400.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: Description is in English

Revisions to this Guide

March 2023: Edited by Anna Björnsson McCormick to add the correct microfilm identifier.


Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
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