Date of Award
Master of Arts
The following work explores the impact of HUAC propaganda on rural settings, specifically using a case study of Ames, Iowa in 1961. Between March and June 1961, Ames hosted showings of two films entitled Communism on the Map and Operation Abolition, both produced by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). When approaching the Cold War, many historians have focused upon developments in large urban centers and the politics behind policies. By studying the events of 1961, this work widens the Cold War historiography which is severely lacking in discussion of rural communities.
Ames, Iowa became the epicenter of a hysterical ideological struggle, after a local citizen reported his concerns to the Federal Bureau of Investigations. These concerns pertained to the Iowa State University student body reacting improperly to the screening of HUAC propaganda films. HUAC intended the films to spread alarm over supposed communist subversion, but a significant number of students at the university felt outraged at the films. In turn, their protests seemed to confirm the worst fears of the community's anti-communists, that young people and untrustworthy Americans failed to take seriously the threat of subversion. This event showcases the deep ideological divides which were deepening between anti-communists and those who rejected HUAC's message.
The events in Ames sparked debates in local newspapers, where students, faculty, and community members discussed the merits of anti-communism and the constitutionality of HUAC itself. The Iowa State Daily, Ames Daily Tribune, and the Des Moines Register encapsulated the community's worries, opinions and outrage in a time when the entire nation was on edge over Cold War politics and domestic identity. Anti-communists also voiced their concerns directly to Iowa State University's president. The beliefs of rural anti-communists as well as their anti-HUAC counterparts echoed opinions felt on a national scale. This case-study thus yields a more inclusionary interpretation of the Cold War that understands rural and small-town Americans as full historical participants.
Cole Foster Knutson
Knutson, Cole Foster, "Polarization of American identity over HUAC propaganda: Ideological conflicts at Iowa State University in the early 1960s" (2020). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 17968.